The Will may be unfair; but is it illegal?

After Joe Albanese’s mother died in April 2016, he was shocked to learn that she had left a $560,000 home, its contents, the money in her checking accounts, and 82% of her assets to his sister. Joe’s adult stepdaughter, the apple of his mother’s eye since she was a toddler, was omitted from the Will completely.

​”To this day, we still don’t know the motivation behind her choices. Joe feels helpless in this situation” says Joe’s wife Barbara.

But is he?

While the chances of success are slim, a Will can be challenged in court.

What you need to contest a Will

Anyone who wants to revise a will after the author’s death must attempt to establish one of the following four legal grounds:

  • Undue influence – If the deceased person was aggressively pressured by someone to change the will, you have a case.
  • Fraud – If the Will’s author was tricked into signing, the Will is invalid.
  • Improper execution – If the Will was not prepared or executed properly under the laws of the state in which it was created, it could be thrown out in court.
  • Lack of capacity. If the Will’s author was not mentally capable of understanding the issues at the time it was created, the Will could be invalid.
Consider the Financial and Emotional Cost

Maybe you’re more interested in proving wrongdoing than in padding your own bank account, but it’s not worth pursuing a case if you’ll lose money even if you win.

If all you’re going to get is the balance of a checking account worth $2,000, and it costs tens of thousands of dollars to bring the case, the cost-benefit analysis doesn’t really justify it.

However, if elder abuse is suspected, a contester could pursue criminal charges against the offender. That avenue may make more sense than pursuing a civil case in which the cost is prohibitive.

In addition to the financial cost, also consider the cost to personal relationships. While feeling slighted by your late loved one – and missing out on inheritance — may be painful, the emotional stress of court proceedings can be just as grueling.

Contesting will likely affect your relationship with your adversary. A person who competes with a parent or sibling in court may win the judgment, but their parent or sibling may never speak to them again.

The decision is yours. If you have questions or need legal guidance,  call 614-878-7777 or click here.

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