Contesting a Will
Musical chairs: Undue influence, dementia, will challenges, & will contests.
Mistake: underestimating family dis-harmony and family
Who will get to you last? Who will get you to change your will for the very last time? Sometimes – not all the time, but sometimes – your “estate plan” ends up being one silly game of musical chairs.
What do I mean?
Consider if you live in Florida. Your spouse flies alone to…let’s say, California…to visit his or her daughter from a prior relationship. You stay in Florida: alone.
Swoop! Your adult son from your first marriage hops the first flight down from Boston after your spouse leaves for
California, and pleads with you to “put his name on the power of attorney,” and to sign an amendment to your trust, leaving him more money – for your grandkids, of course.
Your spouse returns and learns of this, so he or she drags you to your lawyer’s office, to change your estate plan back to the way it was before your son from Boston swooped in…and to change that power of attorney.
Please don’t think this is far-fetched. This sort of “musical chairs estate planning” is common: kids, in-laws, outlaws, step-children, latest spouses – all of them running around in circles, trying to get their name in your trust or will, to inherit and control your money, all before your music stops.
In our little example above, consider changing the “legal actors.” If you’re not married, but have adult children, then “replace” the spouse with a son or daughter (adult child) who lives down the road from you in Florida, who has also always “helped” you with, and “shown an interest in,” your estate plan.
This adult child doesn’t get along with your other adult child, who doesn’t live close by.
When that local adult child isn’t “watching,” your other out-of-town adult child swoops in and has you change your estate plan. By the time you die, you have so many wills, codicils, trusts, trust amendments, powers of attorney, and restatements of trust, that you can fill a library with them.
One of the biggest mistakes clients can make when planning their estates is failing to consider likely probate litigation. If you care.
If you don’t care about your money, your wealth, and your estate plan, then this chapter will be of little concern to you.
If, however, you’re concerned about the inheritances which you leave, and how they can be diminished by attorneys fees, then please keep reading.