Although proactive estate planning can go a long way toward avoiding an
inheritance dispute, it can be beneficial for readers to understand the
how a will or trust might be legally contested.
As a preliminary matter, is should be noted that a will or trust dispute
may arise in several circumstances. Fighting among beneficiaries might
be the scenario that comes first to mind. However, another reason might
be when a beneficiary is concerned that a loved one’s will or trust
does not reflect his or her actual intentions.
Notably, a legal challenge may be possible on this type of good faith ground
even if a will or trust contains a no contest clause, stating that any
beneficiary that challenges the terms of the inheritance will forfeit
his or her bequest. The reason is that courts generally want to honor
the intentions of the grantor, especially if there is probable cause to
suspect that the actual documents do not reflect that intent.
So what might constitute legal grounds for suspecting an unintentional
discrepancy in a will a trust? Lack of capacity is one, where the grantor
may have lacked the mental capacity to fully understand his or her actions
at the time the will or trust was created and/or signed. Fraud might be
another, where another person may have unduly influenced the grantor.
However, there is an instance where a will or trust might be questioned
even if the grantor had capacity and the document accurately reflects
his or her intentions. Specifically, if a will or trust was improperly
witnessed or signed, or otherwise procedurally flawed, a will contest
might arise. Fortunately, the court may be able to remedy this outcome
if witnesses testify to their participation or signatures.