Some people die without a last will or estate plan, leading the Pennsylvania probate courts to divide up their property. However, sometimes even those who have planned their estates will have their assets go through probate after they die.
If someone in your family challenges or contests your last will, your estate may wind up in probate, despite your attempts to plan carefully. What are the situations in which people can potentially challenge your last will?
When the documents include illegal terms
If your last will violates the basics of state probate law, your family members could challenge the estate plan because of those issues. For example, completely disinheriting your spouse might lead to a challenge so that they can assert their statutory right to inheritance.
When they suspect the testator waited too long to plan
Estate planning is frequently something that people procrastinate about, trying to wait as long as possible before they have to think about what happens to their property when they die. Unfortunately, some people will wait too long. If someone has Alzheimer’s disease or displays signs of cognitive decline, their family could challenge their last will by claiming the testator lacked testamentary capacity.
When people think outside influence or fraud changed the terms
Those creating their estate plan want to set terms that reflect their relationships and their priorities, like providing for their children and grandchildren.
In cases where someone makes late-in-life changes that favor one family member over others, other people might suspect undue influence or inappropriate pressure led to those changes. When the document left behind seems to completely contradict someone’s previously stated wishes, that might make people suspect fraud.
Recognizing the situations that give rise to estate challenges can help you plan to avoid such conflict when planning your own estate.