As long as people continue to pass away, there will always be the potential for disputes among heirs as to who gets what from the estate. The best way to avoid family squabbles over inheritances is to have a solid, professionally prepared estate plan, will, and/or trust in place prior to death. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen and families are torn apart in the aftermath.
A typical example of an inheritance dispute is when one or more heirs finds out that the will of the decedent does not give them the share they expected. This often arises when a parent makes a will that leaves out one of the children or makes unequal divisions among the children.
There is no legal requirement that a parent equalizes the division of the estate among his or her children. A person can leave their estate to whomever they wish, however they wish, irrespective of kinship ties (except that surviving spouses cannot be totally disinherited).
Even so, in these instances, a disgruntled heir may decide to challenge the will. The legal proceeding to do this is known as a will caveat proceeding.
Will Caveat Proceeding Basics
There are several grounds on which to base a will caveat proceeding. Any one of these grounds, if proven, could result in a will being declared invalid:
- Lack of testamentary capacity;
- Undue influence;
- Fraud or forgery;
- Improper Execution; and
The caveat proceeding must be filed within 3 years of the application for probate. If a will is declared invalid, the estate will pass to the heirs by the law of intestate succession.
The Downside to Will Caveats & How to Handle Them
Will caveat cases are very expensive to litigate and very destructive for families. If they can be avoided, they should be. Whether or not litigation can be avoided, an experienced, effective lawyer is vital. Hiring the right lawyer early is the single best thing you can do to protect your rights.
Whether you are challenging a will you believe to be invalid or need to defend a will against a caveat, we have the knowledge and dedication necessary to successfully guide you through this process. At The Doyle Law Offices, P.A. founding attorney Attorney Hank Doyle leverages over 20 years of experience in Wills & Estates, representing families facing a will challenge case.