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Why some estates end up in lawsuits when others don’t

| Nov 27, 2018 | Estate Planning And Probate |

What prompts one family member to dispute another’s last will and testament?

Naturally, most people who contest a will feel like they have been unjustly deprived of an inheritance for one reason or another. However, not everyone who feels like they were wrongfully treated in a will ends up taking the issue to court. Most will simply make peace with the fact that they were disinherited and move on.

So what factors can drive someone to contest a will?

  • Large estates — The larger the estate, the more likely someone will contest the will. It’s expensive to fight the terms of a will in court, so the potential reward has to be worth it. In some cases, parents are leaving behind homes that are worth far more than they paid for them because property prices have risen so much. Investments and insurance policies can also contribute to the value of an estate.
  • Complex family structures — Second marriages are common these days, and they can create complex families with a lot of different branches. Not everyone in those families may feel deeply connected to each other, so one branch may very well view the other as “interlopers” who shouldn’t be entitled to an inheritance.
  • Deep-seated resentments — Sibling rivalry and old family feuds can erupt as soon as a matriarch or patriarch dies. It isn’t unusual for siblings to accuse each other of fraud — or worse — over an inheritance. A recent Michigan will dispute even saw one brother level unfounded charges of murder against the other.
  • End-of-life mental health issues — Often, people contest a will when they believe that the deceased was unduly influenced or otherwise duped into signing a will that wasn’t really in accord with their true wishes. When a relative suffers from dementia in their final years, there’s often a fear that he or she was manipulated by someone into giving that person a lion’s share of the estate.

You may not be able to absolutely prevent anyone from contesting your will, but you can take steps to make it less likely. There are ways to manage your wealth, for example, that would keep it out of your estate and take away a lot of incentive anyone might have to file a lawsuit. An experienced estate planning attorney can help assess your needs and provide more information.

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