Why Inheritance Disputes Arise
The last thing you might expect is for your death to result in conflict among your loved ones. However, inheritance disputes are more common than you might imagine. This is true whether there is significant wealth involved or very little, and even the most straightforward family units can disagree when it comes to inheritances.
There are many different reasons why someone might question their inheritance as set out in their relative's will. For example:
- Beneficiaries might feel the will does not accurately reflect what their loved one would have intended
- Beneficiaries believe that there is inequity in the bequests based on their sacrifices for their loved one, family members borrowing money from the loved one, or other circumstances unique to the family.
- Beneficiaries suspect elder abuse or other wrongdoing on the part of other beneficiaries
- Beneficiaries suspect misconduct on the part of an executor or personal representative of the estate
A beneficiary might want to challenge the stated inheritances, though they might not know how. In many situations, a beneficiary will need to present the matter to the court to have the set inheritances changed, which can be difficult and has several requirements.
Challenging the Will in Court
When you believe you have a valid reason to challenge a will and its bequests, you must have legal standing to do so. This means you must be a beneficiary under the will, a potential heir that believes you should have been a beneficiary, or a creditor with a claim against the estate.
Next, you must have specific legal grounds on which to challenge the will. It is not enough to simply tell the court you believe the inheritance is unfair. Instead, you must present legal justification for your belief, as well as evidence to support your claims. Some claims include:
- The testator lacked the mental capacity to create a will. The law requires people to understand the effects of making a will, the nature of their property, and the identities of their heirs/beneficiaries when they sign the will. If they lack such capacity, the will can be deemed invalid.
- There was undue influence exercised over the testator. In some cases, a caretaker or relative might get close to the testator and try to alienate them from other beneficiaries, which might end up with the testator changing the will in that person’s favor.
- The will was signed based on fraud. If the testator signed the will based on false statements or deceptive conduct, the will can be invalid.
- There is a more recent will. The most recent valid will should be used, and a beneficiary might have reason to believe there is a newer will that has different inheritance bequests.
Contact a Trusted Santa Ana Estate Planning Attorney for Assistance
It is often difficult to prove the testator’s thoughts, intentions, or state of mind, since they cannot be called to the witness stand. You should always seek help from an experienced estate planning lawyer in Santa Ana if you face an inheritance dispute. Please call the Law Offices of Roshni T. Desai at 714-694-1200 or contact us online to discuss your concerns today.