Will contests are expensive and can cause a disruption to the family involved. Probate laws limit the circumstances in which a family member or beneficiary can contest someone’s last wishes.
Feeling shocked or dissatisfied with the terms your loved one has in their last will isn’t a reason to challenge their legacy. However, if you believe that an act of fraud somehow influenced the terms, then you may potentially have grounds to challenge the will or estate plan.
Fraud can involve many different kinds of lying, deception or misrepresentation. There are multiple ways that fraud could influence an estate plan, including the three below.
When someone did not know what they signed
Older adults often hand off some responsibilities to their caregivers. They may no longer carefully review their own financial statements or mail. They might develop a habit of just signing the paperwork that their caregiver or child presents them.
Unfortunately, this might lead to someone signing estate planning documents without realizing they just altered their own legacy. Documents that don’t have notarization or an attorney listed as a witness could be the result of this kind of fraud.
When there are surprise documents that no one expected
When a family member or the executor produces estate documents that no one else knew existed, there might be reason to question the provenance of those documents.
Some people will create entirely falsified documents, complete with forged signatures or illegally obtained notarization. If someone who previously did not have responsibility for storing the testator’s estate plan produces documents that other people did not know about, that could be a valid reason for concern.
When the final documents contradict someone’s lifelong wishes
Did your mother always want to leave the bulk of her estate to a college for a scholarship fund? Do you believe that your parents intended to skip a generation and use their legacy to help their grandchildren attend college?
If the estate plan or will seems to directly contradict previous versions of the plan or someone’s openly stated wishes, that could be a major warning sign that the documents aren’t valid. Identifying potential fraud could lead to a will contest that eventually upholds your loved one’s true, intended legacy.