If you follow my blog you know how strongly I feel about all adults having a Last Will and Testament drawn up by an attorney. Without them, often our loved ones are left figuring out what we would want and arguing over what is right. But even with prepared documents there are ways your wishes could get overruled. Here are three ways your Will could get ignored:
If you have retirement plans and life insurance policies, you have the opportunity to designate beneficiaries with the companies who administer those plans or policies. Some people do this when a plan is created and then never revisit the topic. Who is the beneficiary on your plan? Your ex-spouse? Only half of your children because you didn’t recall their Social Security Numbers at the time you set up the plan? The unfortunate thing is that those beneficiary designations, even if left haphazardly, trump any wishes you leave in a Will. So make sure these plans are up to date! Any time you think to update your Will, beneficiary designations should be reviewed as well.
One of the ways a Will could be ruled invalid is by proving that the deceased didn’t have the ability to understand the consequences of the will or something prevented them from good decisionmaking. In general, minors do not possess testamentary capacity, but unless questioned, adults are assumed to have it. The deceased’s testamentary capacity could be challenged due to a mental incapacity or other impairments such as being under the influence. If you or another person challenge a decedent's Will, there is a very good likelihood that lawyers Will get as much money out of the estate as you or anyone else.
Duress, Fraud or Undue Influence
A Will could be found to be invalid due to the deceased being under duress, or the subject of fraud or undue influence at the time of writing the Will. Basically, someone isn’t allowed to force or wrongfully coerce someone else to execute or change their Will in a certain way. For example, if I intended on leaving assets to an old friend but then was told a lie that this friend was deceased or otherwise would not accept the gift, it may be argued that someone was committing fraud in an attempt to convince me to change how I’d write my Will. Likewise, if a family member made me sign a Will at gunpoint (a little extreme, but you get the idea) or they controlled my every movement and who I could see and speak with, and brainwashed me over the course of time to believe that I should only leave assets to them, that is grounds for challenging a Will. You can see that these challenges can open up deep emotional wounds and are difficult to prove due to the sensitivity of the facts involved. If the charges are proven, though, the current Will may be thrown out for an earlier version or there may be no Will at all.
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