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Challenging a Will

A will is a document that provides for the distribution of your estate when you die. Probate is the process of validating the will in surrogate court and administering the estate. It includes defining an executor or personal representative if the deceased did not appoint one. In almost all cases, a will goes through probate without any problems.

A will can be challenged if it is missing one of the necessary elements. The elements necessary for a will to be valid (in most states) are: the maker of the will or testator must be at least 18 years old, of sound mind, and created the will without any undue influence. The will needs to be dated and signed by the testator in front of two witnesses. A testator can only have one will at a time. Any new will revokes the prior will. If there are additions that need to be made to a will, the testator creates a codicil to the will. A will should also appoint an executor or personal representative.

When a Will is Challenged
Challenging a will means, the validity of the will is being contested. A beneficiary or someone who should have inherited from the estate can challenge a will. Common grounds for challenging a will are:

  • Coercion
  • Fraud
  • Insanity
  • Lack of sound mind
  • Undue influence

Recession Fuels Challenges
According to an article in Yahoo News, the current recession has instigated family disputes and will challenges. Additionally, reduced assets and real estate values have decreased the amount of assets to split among heirs. The amount of lawsuits has dramatically increased, especially with extended family members and multiple marriages.

If you want to avoid having your will challenged after you are gone, follow the steps outlined in Yahoo News—make sure you have a good attorney, choose the right executor, make your wishes are known and keep your assets in your name.

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