Having a will is a good way to communicate one’s testamentary wishes to their family and loved ones. A will is a device that a Californian can use to share what property own and to whom they wish to give it when they die. Through a will a person can also name a party to care for their minor children should such service be necessary.
A person can only have one will, though, and if more than one exists there can be questions regarding which one should be enforced. Family members of a deceased individual who had at least two purported wills may challenge the documents’ validity if they show substantial changes in the decedent’s alleged testamentary intentions. Trust and probate litigation attorneys may be needed to help sort out issues related to multiple wills.
Using dates to determine will validity
One way that parties and their attorneys can determine which of a decedent’s wills is valid is through dating. Generally, a will with a more recent date will be considered the decedent’s valid will because it was created closer to the time of their death. However, if the decedent was forced or pressured into making a new will against their desires, the newer will may actually be the one that is invalid. Probate litigation may be needed to sort these matters out.
Investigating duress in the creation of a will
As mentioned, a will cannot be considered valid if it was created under duress, force, or coercion. A person must have testamentary capacity and a sound mind to make a will, and if they are manipulated then it may be argued that they lacked these necessary components. A will that is executed against the wishes or capacity of a person may not be considered valid.
Finding signs of destruction
Often a person will destroy or attempt to destroy a prior will when they draft a new one. Evidence of destruction, or an intent to destroy a will, may show a decedent’s intentions to remove that will from their estate plan. Some wills contain terms that state they become invalid if properly executed wills supersede them; a probate litigation lawyer can help their client understand these and other estate planning challenges.
The existence of multiple wills can create confusion and questions during the probate process. Families and loved ones may find themselves in conflict over what they believe is the true intent of the decedent. Getting to the bottom of a will challenge can be hard, but probate litigation lawyers can help families reconcile their difficult estate administration questions.