Challenging a last will and testament is a significant legal step that should not be taken lightly. When someone passes away, their will outlines not only how they chose for their assets to be distributed among beneficiaries but also the legacy they wished to leave behind. There may be circumstances, however, in which you believe the will is not valid or that you have not been fairly treated as a beneficiary.
In such situations, you may have questions including whether you should consider challenging the estate plan. We want to share with you both pros and cons when it comes to challenging a last will and testament so you are able to gather knowledge and seek the advice of an experienced Florida estate planning attorney.
Let us start with the pros of challenging a last will and testament. While this is by no means an exhaustive list, it will serve as an estate planning primer and whether you may have a case.
1. Ensuring fair distribution. One of the primary reasons for challenging a will is the belief that the distribution of assets is unfair or unjust. This can occur when a will favors one beneficiary over others or excludes certain individuals who should have reasonably been included. Challenging the will allows for a review of its fairness and may lead to a more equitable distribution.
2. Proving lack of capacity. If you suspect that the deceased was not of sound mind or was coerced or unduly influenced into creating or amending the will, challenging it can help establish the lack of testamentary capacity. This is crucial to ensure that the document accurately represents the wishes of the deceased.
3. Identifying undue influence. Challenging a will can be beneficial if you believe that someone exerted undue influence on the testator (the person who signed the will) to benefit themselves or others unfairly. Validating such claims can prevent the wrongful acquisition of assets.
4. Rectifying errors or ambiguities. Wills may contain errors or ambiguities that need correction. Challenging the will can prompt a court to interpret or rectify unclear terms to better align with the testator’s intentions.
In contrast, there can be cons to challenging a last will and testament. Let us shed some light on a few key examples here.
1. Emotional stress. Challenging a will can be emotionally taxing, as it often involves disputes among family members and loved ones. It may strain relationships and lead to prolonged legal battles, causing stress and emotional turmoil.
2. Time and expense. Challenging a will can be a lengthy and costly process. Legal fees, court expenses, and the time invested in litigation can significantly impact your financial resources and personal life. Before you make this decision, discuss in detail the full course of action with your experienced Florida estate planning attorney.
3. Uncertain outcomes. Success is not guaranteed when challenging a will. In most situations, courts uphold the testator’s wishes whenever possible, and you must provide compelling evidence to prove your case. If you fail to do so, the original will may remain unchanged.
4. Damage to relationships. Will challenges often result in fractured relationships among family members. Litigation can lead to bitterness, resentment, and long-lasting divisions within the family.
5. Publicity and privacy. Court proceedings are typically public, which means that your family’s private matters may become part of the public record. This lack of privacy can be uncomfortable for some individuals.
Challenging a last will and testament is a significant decision that should be made after careful consideration of the pros and cons. Before pursuing a will challenge, it is advisable to consult with an experienced Florida estate planning attorney who can assess the strength of your case and provide guidance on the best course of action. Additionally, exploring alternative dispute resolution methods, such as mediation, may help mitigate some of the negative consequences associated with will challenges while still achieving a fair resolution. Ultimately, understanding the potential risks and rewards of challenging a will is essential for making an informed decision in a sensitive and challenging time.
We know this article may raise more questions than it answers. Our estate planning law firm takes a very different approach from what you might have come to expect. Our goal is to create lifelong relationships with each of our clients, to guide and manage your legacy for the rest of your life. Please contact our offices in Stuart and in Palm City to learn more.