When you create a will, you can generally appoint heirs and write down wishes that will be relevant when you die. Before proceeding, however, it is crucial to first seek legal help from experts. It is important to keep in mind that last wills and testaments are legal documents. As with any legal document, you have to ensure that they follow a specific legal process. When drafting and setting up a last will and testament, anything that is not pursuant to estate law could be grounds for the estate planning document to be contested. Hire a local attorney who will work closely with you. A reliable Tacoma estate planning attorney can help you write a will that will be difficult to contest.
What this article will focus on are four red flags to avoid when making a will. They generally correspond to common grounds for contesting a will, which you should carefully take note of. These include:
- Preparing a will but disregarding state law and guidelines
- There is reason to believe (and proof) that there was a lack of testamentary capacity
- There is reason to believe (and proof) that there was undue influence
- The presence of fraud when writing a will
Preparing a will but disregarding state law and guidelines
When you write a will, you do not ‘simply’ sign it. There are very specific laws stating how estate planning documents are to be signed. These laws can vary from state to state. Generally, however, the testator (the term for an individual making a will) must sign the paperwork in the presence and hearing of at least two witnesses. The witnesses and testator should be within the same room and all must have witnessed the other persons involved as they are signing the documents.
Aside from these, there are other formalities and signing guidelines that must be followed to ensure the validity of your estate document. Depending on the actual circumstance, someone could try to contest a will because of failure to follow the required legal procedure.
There is reason to believe (and proof) that there was a lack of testamentary capacity
Experienced Tacoma estate planning attorneys can fully explain what testamentary capacity means. Very broadly, this signifies that the individual drafting a will can understand the value and nature of the inheritance that he or she intends to distribute through the document he or she drafted and signed. It implies that the testator fully understands the legal effects of the signing, such as who should inherit his or her real and personal property. It is important to keep in mind that testamentary capacity is not strictly associated with age. As long as necessary details are still well understood, an elderly with signs of early dementia may still have testamentary capacity. Conversely, someone who is still young may be in a certain circumstance where such capacity is difficult to establish.
There is reason to believe (and proof) that there was undue influence
Pursuant to relevant estate planning law, one must make sure that the individual who wants to leave behind a will has not been subjected to undue influence. When you draft a will, you want to make decisions on things that will take effect when you are deceased. These could cover a lot: transferring to a specific heir if any family member will be disinherited, who among your loved ones will be your successor, or who will carry out or will be executing your wishes at the time of death, and other related matters. Given the sensitivity of these things, there is a possibility that a testator is intentionally put under severe duress, to the point he or she lost his free will. If such can be proven, there are grounds for the will of the decedent to be contested. Hands-on Tacoma estate planning lawyers can help make sure that this does not happen to you.
The presence of fraud when writing a will
Distributing your assets and estate administration is not easy. It is possible that you would want to make your will so you can decide on the beneficiary designation. When naming beneficiaries, you would likely designate your would-be surviving spouse, children, grandchildren, or any other family member. Unfortunately, however, it is possible that one of these people would trick a testator into creating and signing a will. A common example would be being told that the document was merely a power of attorney or a deed when it is, in fact, actually a will.
Even if its implications would not be apparent until after death, creating a will is something you must be concerned about at present. Last wills can be contested, which is why it is very important to get legal advice from an expert on wills and estates law. One must keep in mind that if at least one provision of a will is rendered invalid, it would be as if the deceased person did not make a will at all. The probate process is complicated and you would want your loved ones to avoid probate, especially after you pass away.
For legal questions on your estate plan, trusts, guardianship, or intestacy, or if you find yourself in probate court, contact a trusted estate planning law firm who can give expert assistance. Contact a law firm that has been serving clients with estate planning issues for more than 15 years. Call us at Jones Legacy Law and consult with a competent Tacoma estate planning attorney today or browse our website for other resources on estate planning law.