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Challenging a Will: What to Do If You Believe Your Inheritance Is Incorrect

Challenging a Will What to Do If You Believe Your Inheritance Is Incorrect

Dealing with the death of a loved one is never easy, and it can be even more challenging when you have questions about your inheritance. You might feel like a will doesn’t match the intent of your deceased loved one, whether they forgot to update it or made another mistake. Beneficiaries have the right to challenge a will that they feel is wrong.

What Should You Do If You’re Unsure about Your Inheritance?

When a loved one passes away, it’s natural to have questions about what you’ll inherit. The first step is to understand the will's contents and the executor's role. The executor manages the deceased's estate and distributes the assets according to the will.

When to Challenge a Will

Consider the story NJ.com shared, where a woman was unsure if she received the right inheritance after her mother died. The woman struggled to communicate with her brother, the executor. The last she’d heard from her mother, she had assets such as insurance policies, a safe deposit box, and a paid-off home.

However, the brother claimed the mother had liquidated her assets and reverse-mortgaged her home and that nothing was left. Naturally, the woman was afraid that she was being defrauded of her inheritance.

What Does it Mean to Contest a Will?

Contesting a will involves legally challenging its validity. Beneficiaries often do this because they believe the will does not accurately reflect the deceased's wishes.

You may be able to contest a will if you have standing and valid legal grounds. Broadly speaking, you can challenge a will if you believe it’s been revoked or is legally invalid. As MetLife describes, the most common grounds to contest a will include:

  • Forgery: Believing the will was signed by someone other than the decedent or the decedent wasn't mentally competent.
  • Lack of due execution: The will wasn't executed following legal protocols.
  • Mistakes or incompleteness: The will contains errors or is unfinished.
  • Mental incapacity: The decedent was not of sound mind when creating the will.
  • Undue influence: The decedent was coerced or manipulated into signing the will.
  • Revocation: The decedent had revoked the will by creating a new one or destroying the old one.

Who Can Contest a Will?

To contest a will, you must have legal standing. Generally, this means you have a financial interest in the estate. Some cases in which you would have standing include being named in a previous version of the will or if state law would leave you to inherit the estate without a will.

How Can You Protect Your Inheritance Rights?

If you believe you are not receiving the inheritance you are entitled to, there are steps you can take to protect your rights:

  • Communicate with the Executor: Try to resolve any issues by discussing them with the executor.
  • Request a Copy of the Will: You have the right to see the will and understand its contents.
  • Seek Legal Advice: If you cannot resolve the issue, consider seeking legal advice to explore your options.

What Should You Do to Contest a Will?

If you decide to contest a will, it’s important to act quickly. After all, most states offer a limited timeframe for you to file your challenge.

Key Takeaways

  • Understand Your Rights: Know what you are entitled to inherit and communicate clearly with the executor.
  • Legal Grounds: Contesting a will requires valid legal reasons such as forgery, lack of mental capacity, or undue influence.
  • Seek Legal Advice: Consult an attorney if you have concerns about your inheritance or wish to contest a will.
  • Estate Planning: Creating a clear and legally binding will can help prevent disputes and ensure your wishes are followed.

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