When a person dies, their will is entered into probate court and a long process begins. If you follow celebrity news, you might be familiar with the idea of a will being challenged in probate by a variety of types of people. Sometimes a will is challenged by family members, and other times close friends challenge a will as their way of protecting the legacy of their friend. But why are wills challenged? There are a few good reasons why a will would be challenged, and greed is not always a motivating factor.
If you use an estate planner to help keep your affairs in order, then you will constantly hear your estate planner tell you that you should update your existing will instead of creating a new one. A person with means who gets remarried may feel it necessary to do a new will to help protect their new family, but making a new will only complicates matters.
If an old will is not destroyed when a new one is made, then that old will might find its way to probate court. A court will look to see which will was created most recently and use that will as the valid one, but that is only after the new will has been verified. If a second will pops up in probate court, then that can mean many extra months of litigation for the family and the estate.
Under the umbrella term of fraud is included forged wills and wills created under undue influence from outside parties. When a will is made under the undue influence of an outside party, it means that the person who made the will did so under pressure from someone else or without the freedom to express their own terms.
In most cases, it can be relatively easy to prove if a will is a forgery or a fraudulent situation. But when a will is challenged in court due to undue influence, it can mean a very long and messy process for all sides involved.
A holographic will is one written entirely in the handwriting of the deceased and signed by the deceased, but there were no witnesses to the signature. Some states, such as Vermont, are very specific about witnesses to the signing of a will, while around half of the country allows for holographic wills.
In states where there are very specific rules about witnesses, a will could be challenged when it is alleged that there were not enough witnesses to the signature. While holographic wills are legal, they are also extremely easy to challenge in probate. This is why it is important that you do your will through a competent estate planning expert who knows the process and will make sure that there are the right number of witnesses to make your will legal in probate.
Every once in a while a story will pop up of a celebrity's will being challenged in probate. To the public, it sounds like a money grab on the part of the people doing the challenge, but that is not always the case. There are legitimate reasons to challenge a will in probate, and there are situations where challenging a will can make sure that the final wishes of the deceased are completely realized.