Hyden, Miron & Foster, PLLC Law Blog

Friday, January 2, 2015

Can a court invalidate a will or trust?

It is unfortunate, but sometimes an individual goes through the trouble and expense of creating an estate plan only for their beneficiaries to end up in court facing a lawsuit – or contest.  A will or trust contest is a legal proceeding filed to challenge the validity of one of these documents.  If the challenge is successful, the court throws out the document and it is as if it never existed.  

Will and trust contests can be pursued for a variety of reasons.  While each state is different, there are some reasons, which are common across the country.  These include claims that the document was not executed pursuant to state law.  Also, a certain level of mental capacity is required to create a will or trust, so a challenge might include a claim that the person making the will or trust did not have the requisite capacity.  Another common basis for a contest involves a claim that the person making the will or trust was subject to undue influence or was the victim of fraud.  

Although not everyone has this ability, there are various people who can challenge a will or trust.  Beneficiaries, those who have been chosen to inherit from the current will or trust or a previous one, can bring a contest.  Also, heirs at law, or those who stand to inherit pursuant to state law, can challenge a will or trust.  

There is always a possibility that a will or trust may be challenged.  But, there are certain steps an individual can take to lessen the likelihood that this type of conflict will arise.  One way to avoid a contest is to disclose the estate plan to others.  Individuals should not keep the estate plan a secret and should, at the very least, let others know that it exists, without getting into all of the specific details.  Disinheriting a beneficiary is a common cause of conflict, and therefore, an individual might consider options other than cutting them out altogether.  For example, certain stipulations relating to the inheritance can be built right into the will or trust.  It is also important to update an estate plan frequently to ensure that changes to beneficiaries and assets are accounted for. Most importantly, individuals should always consult with an experienced estate planning attorney to have the best chance of avoiding conflicts. Contact the experienced attorneys at Hyden, Miron & Foster, PLLC at 501.376.8222. 

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