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Maybe it's the season, but I have gotten a lot of calls recently about will contests. A will contest usually happens when your heirs are surprised by what your will says, or by what you have left when you go to the great beyond. I have represented both heirs and estates, and in all cases there are some big misunderstandings about the reasons you can challenge a will. And no, being disappointed is not a legal cause of action.
First, this post is an except from my new book Plan Your Own Estate: Passing on Your Assets and Your Values Legally and Efficiently (Apress 2013). Want to know more? Click the link and 350+ pages of fun (I swear) estate planning knowledge is yours!
Sometimes, the heirs are surprised because something hinky is going on. Mom said all her life she was leaving her assets equally to her kids, yet daughter Donna took Mom to her lawyer and Mom suddenly (6 months before she died) named Donna sole beneficiary.
More ofter, when your heirs are surprised by what your will says, it could be they thought they were getting something, and you intended for them to get nothing. If that's the case, make sure you are super clear about your intentions. When you aren't, quite a good deal of money could go to defending your will.
From Plan Your Own Estate: Passing on Your Assets and Your Values Legally and Efficiently (Apress 2013).
The good news is that, despite what you see on TV, there are only four limited grounds on which to contest a will:
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