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Appeals court upholds ruling on validity of elderly woman’s wills

Depending on when a person creates their estate plan and writes their last will and testament, there may come a time when they have to make a revision. While people in Miami-Dade, and throughout the U.S., are permitted to make modifications to these types of legal documents, it can lead to problems after their death for their intended heirs, and for those who feel they should have been included.

According to reports, after an 89-year-old woman passed away in 2007, those closest to her were surprised to learn she had left the entirety of her estate to a man who, they claim, she did not care for. The woman’s estate, which included bank accounts totaling $170,000 and a home with a valued worth of $175,000, was left to the man in the most recent of two wills she had created. The woman’s friends filed a will contest lawsuit, claiming the man used undue influence over the woman to coerce her into making him and, in the event of his death, his son, her sole heirs.

Initially, a judge ruled in favor of the woman’s friends, deeming the second of her wills invalid and instead recognizing the first as her intended and valid will contract. According to reports, the man contested that ruling and, recently, an appeals court upheld the ruling, citing evidence of a fraud scheme and his use of undue influence. He is reportedly facing criminal charges for having forged the woman’s signature on as many as 19 personal checks, both before and after her death, totaling more than $65,000.

Anytime a person has multiple versions of a will, it can leave open the possibility for probate issues. An experienced attorney may be able to help you create an estate plan and will that makes clear you intentions.

Source: Eagle Tribune, “Ex-cop’s claim to widow’s estate rejected”, Jill Harmancinski, Sep. 2, 2013

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