Your will is your last testimony about the items, assets, and money you held in your life and how you wish for it to be used. Creating a will while you are alive is perhaps one of the most responsible things you can do. This one action ensures that your life's collection is properly distributed in a way that makes you happy, even though you are not alive to speak for yourself.
In about 99 percent of cases, no one has issues with the last will and testament probate process, but occasionally, a will is contested. Here are a few common reasons wills can be contested and what you can do to prevent contesting of your will after you pass away.
The Will Does Not Follow the Local State Requirements
Every state has its own legal guidelines regarding wills. For example, in the state of California, a will must be signed by two witnesses present at the time of the will's construction, the person making the will must be over 18, and the will must be in written form, not a voice or video recording.
If during probate it is discovered that your will was drawn up without regard to state requirements, the will could be contested by someone who has interest in your property. This is one of the biggest reasons to consult with an attorney during the process of making your will so that you know all guidelines are followed according the laws in your state.
The Will Wasn't Drafted When You Were in a Sound State of Mind
You should try to draft your will early on before you get older, develop an illness that affects cognitive skills, or face memory issues. If you wait to draft your will later in life and are suffering with certain impairments, the will could be contested because of those impairments. The contesting of the will could be based on the idea that you were not in a sound state of mind at the time.
For example, if you draft your will after being diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, a contester could step forward after your death and claim that you were not of sound mind when the will was created, so you weren't mentally capable of making the best decisions regarding your estate. Therefore, the validity of the will could be questioned and items could be changed.
The Will Is Not the Only Will You Created
If you draw up a will early in your life, and you decide to go through the process again later and make a new will and testament, you need to make sure that the old will is destroyed or eliminated. Upon your death, if more than one will is found by your heirs or during the probate process, one will could trump the other. This may not mean your final wishes are carried out as you want.
More than one will can put your final wishes up for debate. For example, Huguette Clark had a 400- million dollar estate that was not left to her family when she passed in 2005, but instead it was given to her caregiver and other unrelated entities. However, a secondary will that was drafted shortly before the last one made it possible for relatives of Clark to contest the final will.
While creating a will is the first step in the process of ensuring your final wishes are carried out, you have to make sure creating your will is something you take seriously. Contact us at Barrus and Roberts PC for professional legal assistance with your will and estate planning.