Writing a will is a crucial step in ensuring the proper distribution of your assets after your passing. However, even with the best intentions, wills can sometimes be contested, leading to lengthy legal battles and potential disputes among family members. Understanding the common reasons wills are contested can help you take precautions to avoid such conflicts. A lawyer can explain some common reasons that a will may be contested by other parties.
Lack of Testamentary Capacity:
One of the most common grounds for contesting a will is the claim that the testator (the person who made the will) lacked testamentary capacity at the time of its creation. The term testamentary capacity refers to the mental and legal capacity that a person has for making a will. If a person was suffering from dementia, mental illness, or was unduly influenced by someone, the validity of the will may be challenged. To prevent such challenges, it is important to draft a will when you are of sound mind, ensuring your mental capacity is not in question. Including a statement from a medical professional or lawyer affirming your capacity at the time of writing can also strengthen the validity of your will.
Undue influence is another common basis for contention. This occurs when an individual exerts pressure or manipulates the testator into making changes to their will that benefit the influencer. Such cases often involve close relatives or caregivers who take advantage of the testator’s vulnerability. To minimize the chances of undue influence, it is advisable to consult an attorney when drafting your will. This ensures that the will is executed independently and without any coercion. Additionally, it is important to maintain open communication with family members, discussing your intentions and reasoning for the distribution of assets to prevent misunderstandings.
Ambiguous or Poor Drafting:
If a will is too ambiguous and has unclear language, it may also be contested. When the language used in a will is unclear or susceptible to multiple interpretations, it opens the door for legal disputes. To avoid such complications, it is crucial to work with an experienced estate planning attorney who can draft your will using precise and unambiguous language. Regularly reviewing and updating your will as your circumstances change is also essential to ensure its clarity and validity.
Disinheritance and Unfair Distribution:
In some cases, wills are contested when certain family members believe they have been unfairly excluded or not adequately provided for. Disinheritance or unequal distribution of assets can lead to bitterness and resentment among loved ones, prompting them to challenge the will’s validity. As a wills lawyer like one from Carpenter & Lewis, PLLC can advise you, it is key to have open communication with your family members if you want to avoid disputes. If you have reasons for excluding someone or distributing assets unequally, consider including a letter of explanation with your will. Providing a clear rationale can help mitigate potential conflicts and demonstrate that your decisions were made thoughtfully.
While contesting a will can be a complex and emotionally draining process, understanding the common reasons for such disputes can help you take precautions to minimize the chances of them occurring. If you wish to seek professional guidance regarding a will, contact an experienced lawyer who has assisted clients with estate planning concerns now.