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4 reasons to challenge a will

Your mother's will feels like a punch in the gut. You find out, without any prior warning, that 90 percent of the family estate is going to your brother. That includes a family home, a vacation home, two cars and a nice lump sum of money that can be used to fund an early retirement.

You're not trying to be greedy. You just thought things would be split equally. You can't understand why the will doesn't reflect that, and you start to wonder if that will is not quite as close to your parent's real wishes as your brother wants you to believe.

You may be able to challenge it. Below are four potential reasons:

  1. Fraud. Perhaps your brother drafted a new will and then tricked your mother so that she signed it inadvertently. That will was never supposed to be filed, and it's no surprise that it favors your brother.
  2. Undue influence. Perhaps your brother lived in Ohio, while you'd moved to another state. He used his proximity to your mother to pressure her into giving him everything.
  3. Lack of mental capacity. Perhaps your mother suffered from a degenerative brain disease. You think her last draft of her will was made when she had no real ability to mentally understand what she was doing. Otherwise, she never would have written it that way.
  4. Improper execution. The will has to be drafted and filed properly, and then it has to be executed in accordance with state law. A mistake at any level could be grounds for a challenge.

It is true that challenging a will can be difficult. It's hard to prove something like undue influence or fraud. But you can see that it pays to know all of the legal options that you have.

Source: AARP, "Where There's a Will...," Nancy Mann Jackson, accessed Feb. 16, 2018

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