A major reason many people have a lawyer handle their estate planning and administration is to ensure that their goals are carried out exactly as they want. One problem you want to avoid is having someone challenge your will and your dispositions. Not everyone has standing to raise a challenge to your estate plan; only certain people have that right. Thankfully, someone can’t just challenge your estate because they believe it should be handled by someone else or that they didn’t receive what they wanted.
First, they must have standing or be an “interested party” to the will. Second, they must have a valid legal reason for challenging the will. Interested parties include:
- Beneficiaries of a Prior Will: Regardless of whether they are a relative, someone who was named in a previous version of the will may choose to challenge the current version of the will where they are no longer named. They may argue that you were not in your right mind when the will was made, for example, and thus the version where they are named is the valid version. This group includes not only a spouse, ex-spouse, children, grandchildren, and other family members, but also friends and charitable organizations.
- Beneficiaries of a Subsequent Will: Similar to the situation mentioned
above, if probate is started with an older version of a will, then the
beneficiaries of an updated version have the right to challenge the will and
change it to their new version if they can prove that it is a valid subsequent
- Intestate Heirs: If you die without a valid will, your estate goes to your intestate heirs. Generally, this includes your current spouse, children, parents, and siblings. In some cases, such as with a child, you have to be very specific in order to write them out of your will. A spouse, even if not named in the will, will retain the right to challenge the will for the spousal elective share unless it was specifically waived. An heir may also challenge the will if they have reason to believe they were left a disproportionate share.
To have standing, the challenger must either be named in the will or be someone who would either inherit or lose out on something of value if the will is deemed invalid. The best way to avoid an estate challenge is to have a well-documented estate prepared with the assistance of an estate planning attorney. They will take the time to ensure you are mentally capable of changing your will, understand what the impacts of your changes are, and take any steps necessary to make an unusual estate structure clearly legal and binding.
The team at Dunn Law Firm will work with you to ensure your estate plan is comprehensive and covers a variety of possible scenarios to try and minimize the likelihood the will is challenged. To learn more, reach out to the Dunn Law Firm by calling (435) 628-5405 to set up a free consultation today.