Most readers in Miami-Dade are aware that creating a will or estate plan can help ensure that their final wishes are carried out. Often, married couples will choose to create a joint will and estate plan. In the event that one of them dies before the other, however, this can lead to probate problems down the road if the surviving spouse changes the terms of their will to disinherit heirs or to include new beneficiaries.
In a recent will contest case, a woman in Nebraska reportedly raised questions about whether or not her mother's alleged mental illness made her incapable of making decisions regarding her estate plans. According to reports, the woman claimed that after her father's death in 1987, her mother made as many as 10 changes to her will, one of which disinherited her only daughter. The woman purportedly alleged that father had intended to leave her $600,000, but that shortly after his death, her mother modified her will to no longer include her. Instead, her mother purportedly left the entirety of her estate, $6.6 million, to several charities upon her death.
Ultimately, the jury reportedly ruled that the charities should receive the funds as outlined in the woman's will. While there was evidence that the woman did likely suffer from some form of mental illness, likely bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, there was not evidence to prove that she was not competent to make her own financial decisions or that anyone had used undue influence in order to coerce her into making the changes to her estate plan.
Although not all estate settlement disputes can be avoided, thorough estate planning can help to ensure that your wishes are upheld even if questions are raised. This is where an attorney may be able to help.
Source: Omaha.com, "Court battle pits daughter cut from mother's will against charities," Todd Cooper, Dec. 9, 2013