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Questionable wills may lead to probate litigation

Occasionally after a loved one dies, family members in Florida may question the validity of a will, especially if its provisions seem unusual or unexpected. There are a number of reasons why a will may be invalid, but they are difficult to prove. A person wishing to dispute someone's will must be prepared to present the court with evidence during probate litigation.

One thing that will invalidate a will is if the person had diminished capacity at the time he or she signed it. This means that the person had no clear idea that he or she was making a will, did not recognize who his or her natural heirs would be and had no concept of the value of his or her estate. However, clear mental capacity only needs to exist for the amount of time it takes a person to understand and sign the will. If a person's memory or mental status changes the next day, the will may still be valid.

Another factor that may nullify a will is if someone unduly influences the person or commits a fraud in getting the person to sign the will. Undue influence may occur if someone threatens the person or takes advantage of the person's vulnerabilities to get him or her to change the will, either to gain assets or to have others disinherited. A family member who suspects fraud must be able to prove the perpetrator had the means, opportunity and motive for deception, and that the testator was deceived into changing the will.

Probate litigation over wills often creates irreparable rifts in Florida families. To prevent these battles, it is important for potential heirs to understand that people have a right to leave their estates to anyone they wish. Nevertheless, preparing one's estate with the guidance and witness of an attorney is more likely to ensure that one's wishes are respected and safeguarded against disputes.

Source: thebalance.com, "Estate Planning Issues Caused by Diminished Capacity", Patti Spencer, Accessed on Jan. 2, 2017

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