People decide to challenge someone else's estate plan or last will for a broad range of reasons. For example, some people will bring a challenge if a loved one changed their will in the last months of their life while experiencing cognitive decline. Others may challenge a will because they believed someone other than the testator influenced the contents.
Regardless of why you want to bring a challenge against someone's estate plan or will, you should familiarize yourself with the potential consequences of doing so. Bringing a challenge means that the estate will wind up in probate court. It also means that the last will may not wind up enforced by the courts.
In a scenario where the courts decide that the last will or estate plan in place is not valid, there are multiple potential outcomes. Learning more about the consequences of a successful estate challenge can help you make an informed decision about the best strategy.
In cases of questionable changes, the courts may look to an earlier version
Those with substantial assets may begin estate planning many years before their health starts to decline as they age. Then, as the circumstances of their life change, they must adapt or update their last will.
Many times, these updates reflect changes in the family, such as divorce, remarriage or the birth of a child. Sometimes, the last round of changes to a will could occur while someone does not have the legal capacity to change their will. Other times, the changes could be the result of intense pressure from a spouse or caretaker.
In circumstances were the courts rule that the most recent version of the last will is not legally valid, they may look to an earlier estate plan or last will for guidance.
The courts may choose to throw out the estate plan entirely
If there are no previous versions of the last will or if its contents are similarly questionable, the court may choose to throw out the estate plan or last will entirely. In that situation, they may have the entire estate as though the deceased died without an estate plan.
The law in Ohio has specific instructions about what the courts should do when someone dies without a last will. Assets get divided among the closest family members, including the spouse and children of the deceased.
The courts may create their own solution
Every family has its own unusual circumstances and unique stories. The relationships within the family can influence what the courts deem appropriate and reasonable for the estate. In some circumstances, the courts may create a unique estate plan that reflects the characteristics and relationships of the deceased's family more closely than the standard intestate succession might.
If you intend to challenge a last will that names you as beneficiary or heir, it is always in your best interest to understand how the courts will proceed if they agree with you. Discussing your situation with an attorney can be an important step toward making the best decision possible.