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When can family successfully challenge my estate plan?

by | Aug 12, 2021 | Estate Planning |

The passing of talk-show host Larry King led to contention between his wife and his children, as King reportedly left a handwritten will that disinherited his wife. King’s estate is reportedly worth $2 million. King and his wife were in the process of getting a divorce, but King died before they were able to finalize the divorce. King allegedly left a handwritten, secret will that disinherited his wife distributed his assets to his five children. King’s wife is now contesting that will, stating that King was pressured into executing it and thus their existing estate plan executed in 2015 should still stand.

The conflict provides an opportunity to discuss when an estate plan can face a challenge and what courts generally look for when deciding whether or not to overturn a will.

Four situations that can lead to a successful will contest

Even if these facts were supported, contesting a will in these types of cases is not always easy. The courts generally see wills as the “last voice” of the deceased. To contest a will, you generally need to show the following:

  • One option that can help build a strong case is the presence of evidence someone coerced the deceased into writing or updating the will. If this happened, the alleged new will is likely not valid.
  • Undue influence. Courts generally do not uphold any updates if there is evidence that the deceased wrote them while under undue influence.
  • Improper execution. It is also unlikely updates will survive if the deceased did not follow execution formalities. This can include the number of witnesses who signed off on the updates.
  • Mental capacity. Another option is to show that the deceased was not of sound mind when the updates or new will was executed.

These are high standards to meet, making will contests a difficult process.

Proactive steps can help to better ensure a strong estate plan

King’s situation exemplifies how important it is to have a strong estate plan. Various situations can impact the strength of the plan. As a result, those who are looking to put together or update an estate plan are wise to seek legal counsel. This mitigates the risk of a successful challenge to your estate plan.