Losing your loved one can be a painful shock, particularly if you weren’t expecting them to pass when they did. As if you weren’t struggling enough after the death of someone you deeply care for, you could also find yourself dealing with unexpected complications related to their last will or estate plan. Specifically, some people find themselves disappointed and shocked to learn that their loved one changed their last will late in life in a way that impacts the inheritance of those close to them.
If the deceased party is your parent, perhaps they disinherited you and your siblings in favor of your stepparent. It could also be possible that your family member chose to leave a large amount of money to someone outside of the family, such as the home health aide who provided care during their final months of life.
If you find yourself confronted by unexpected changes to the last will of someone close to you, you may need to explore whether you have the legal right to contest the last will or estate plan. Only very specific circumstances allow for the successful challenging of an existing estate plan.
Lack of testamentary capacity due to injury or illness is a common concern
As people get older, their cognitive function declines. Both injuries and illnesses, as well as age-related issues, can impact a person’s ability to make rational decisions. Older adults who suffer head injuries or who have a medical condition that contributes to cognitive decline may make decisions in their later years that do not reflect the wishes they held for the majority of their life.
If the changes to the last will took place after your loved one was already struggling with some kind of decreased cognitive function, you may be able to challenge the will because the testator was not fully in their right mind at the time that they created or signed the documents.
Did another person influence the contents of the will?
A last will or estate plan is supposed to reflect the specific wishes of the individual creating it. Unfortunately, other people can do their best to try to control or manipulate someone during the estate planning process for their own benefit.
If your loved one disinherited family members or a preferred charity in favor of leaving money to an unrelated caregiver, that individual may have intentionally manipulated your loved one through their position of authority.
It is also possible for family members, including spouses and children, particularly those who cohabit with the testator or who provide medical or social support to them, to pressure or influence someone to change their legacy.
You can always push back against fraud
One of the more common concerns people have about a last will is whether fraud played a role in its creation. Fraud could come in many forms.
Fraud could involve someone else creating a document that benefits them and tricking the testator into signing the document, potentially by claiming it is something else altogether. Some people could also forge signatures or even use falsified identification to sign on behalf of someone else in the presence of a notary. If you have any reason to suspect that fraud played a role in the creation of or changes to a last will or estate plan, those concerns may be an adequate reason to challenge the will.