Your estate plan or will gives your loved ones information about your last wishes. It allows them to receive some of your property and to take certain actions on your behalf.
Sometimes, the beneficiaries of an estate are unhappy with what they receive. Other times, they believe that there is something wrong with the documents that their loved one left behind. In a small number of circumstances, family members can challenge or contest the will or estate plan left behind by someone who recently died.
What are legal grounds to challenge an estate?
If someone takes issue with the terms set in an estate plan, they need specific legal grounds to challenge the documents. Typically, an individual needs to show some kind of misconduct or issue that would have impacted the validity of the documents.
Claiming a lack of testamentary capacity on the part of the testator is one option. If someone with Alzheimer’s disease or a similar medical condition drafts or changes their estate plan in the last years of their life, they may not have the legal authority to create binding documents anymore because of their cognitive decline.
Fraud is another reason to challenge an estate. If family members believe that there is a forged signature or fraudulent changes made to the documents, they can bring those concerns to the attention of the probate courts.
Finally, suspicions of undue influence can be a reason to challenge an estate. If you believe that a family member, especially a caregiver, manipulated or threatened an older adult to secure certain terms in the estate plan, you could ask the court to toss out those questionable or invalid documents.
Understanding when people can initiate probate litigation can help both executors and estate beneficiaries.