It can be comforting to know that your loved one left behind a will to outline their wishes for their estate. However, sometimes these same documents can be cause for concern. What warning signs might indicate that your loved one’s will is not valid?
Does your loved one’s will meet the requirements for their state?
Wills must meet many requirements, and those requirements vary slightly by state. These documents, for example, must contain the signature of the person writing the will.
Here is just one example of how a move to another state may cause a person’s will to become invalid. Suppose a person wrote their will to reflect state laws that do not require witness signatures. In that case, that will may be invalid after moving to a state requiring those signatures.
Does your loved one have a more recent will?
People’s wishes can change significantly over time. It is vital to use their most recent estate plan when going through the probate process. While people often destroy old documents to prevent confusion, that is not always the case. The court begins the probate process using an old will, the existence of a newer will could render that old document invalid.
Was your loved one able to understand the estate planning process?
Another legal requirement that wills must meet is that the writer must have had testamentary capacity or understanding of the will-writing process. Conditions like dementia, severe mental illness or addiction can impact a person’s cognitive abilities, and a will written while impaired by that condition might be invalid.
Did someone coerce or mislead your loved one?
When someone manipulates a person into signing a will that they would not otherwise have signed, this can invalidate the will. Manipulation can include someone exerting undue influence over your loved one to coerce them into creating or updating a will to benefit the influencer. Someone may also create a fraudulent will by tricking the deceased into sighing the document or by forging the will.
What can you do if you suspect your loved one’s will is invalid?
Thankfully, people with concerns about the validity of their loved one’s will can take legal action to contest that will. Challenging a will can ensure that they receive their fair share of the estate and that the executor carries out their loved one’s wishes.