Share

Madison Wisconsin's Estate Planning Blog

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

How to Avoid a Disastrous Will or Trust Contest

A will or trust contest can derail your final wishes, rapidly deplete your estate, and tear your loved ones apart. But with proper planning, you can prevent that result.

What is a Will or Trust Contest?

A will or trust contest is a type of lawsuit that is filed to object to the validity of a will or trust.

If a will or trust is successfully contested (i.e., declared invalid), then the court “throws out” the will or trust. If there is a previous will or trust, then those terms will control. If there are no other estate planning documents, the state’s laws of intestacy will control. This can be a disastrous outcome for your intended beneficiaries.

Who Can Contest a Will or Trust?

Only a person who has legal “standing” can file a lawsuit. Standing means that a party involved in a lawsuit will be personally affected by the outcome of the case.

The following people have standing to question the validity of a will or trust:

  • Disinherited or disadvantaged heirs at law--Family members who would inherit or would inherit more under applicable state law if the deceased person failed to make a valid will or trust.
  • Disinherited or disadvantaged beneficiaries--Beneficiaries (such as family, friends, and charities) named or given a larger bequest in a prior will or trust.

Planning Tip: Not everyone involved in your life will have standing to challenge the validity of your estate plan. For example, even if a friend or business associate suspects that your will or trust is invalid, they may not have standing to contest it (unless they are your heir at law or named in your prior will or trust). 

When Can a Will or Trust Contest Be Filed?

A handful of states’ laws allow residents (and in some states nonresidents) to establish the validity of their estate plan before they die. This pre-death validation process allows an individual to confirm their estate planning decisions while they are capable of defending them, which, in turn, will bar challenges to the plan after he or she dies.

The time limit and procedures for contesting a will is determined by the laws and rules of the state in which the probate case is filed.

With regard to trusts, the time frame to contest them varies greatly from state to state. In some states, your heirs can be limited to as little as a few months to contest your trust, while in other states the time frame can be as long as a few years.

What Are the Legal Grounds for Contesting a Will or Trust?

In general, there are four grounds to challenge the validity of a will or trust:

  1. The will or trust was not signed as required by state law. Each state has specific laws that dictate how a will or trust must be signed in order for it to be legally valid (usually wills not entirely in your handwriting must be signed in the presence of two witnesses who meet certain requirements).
  2. The person making the will or trust lacked the necessary capacity. The capacity to make a will means that the person understands (a) their assets, (b) their family relationships, and (c) the legal effect of signing a will. Each state has laws that set the threshold that must be overcome to prove that a person lacked sufficient mental capacity to sign a will. Some states apply the same standard to establishing a trust and others apply the standards for capacity to make a contract (understand the purpose and effect of the contract).
  3. The person making the will or trust was unduly influenced into signing it. As people age and become weaker both physically and mentally, others may exert influence over decisions, including how to plan their estate. Undue influence can also be exerted on the young and the not so young. In the context of a will or trust contest, undue influence means more than just nagging or verbal threats. It must be so extreme that it causes you to give in and change your estate plan to favor the undue influencer.
  4. The will or trust was procured by fraud. A will or trust that is signed by someone who thinks they are signing some other type of document or a document with different provisions is one that is procured by fraud.

Planning Tip: While it is easy to assume that a will or trust signed in an attorney’s office is valid, this is not always the case. Attorneys who do not specialize in estate planning may be unfamiliar with the formalities required to make a will or trust legally valid in their state. Therefore, it is important for you to work with an attorney who is familiar with the estate planning laws of your state. Ensuring that an estate plan is protected against these legal grounds is particularly important if you wish to disinherit or favor one part of your family.

How Can Clients Avoid a Will or Trust Contest?

When you create or update your estate plan, one of your goals should be to insure that your final wishes are fulfilled. If you are concerned about challenges to your estate plan, consider the following:

  1. Do not “do it yourself”! If you are concerned about an heir contesting your estate plan, only an experienced estate planning attorney will be able to help you create and maintain a plan that will discourage lawsuits. Also, note that unintended consequences can result from a “do it yourself” plan because a box or DVD cannot give you legal advice and it’s impossible to work around laws you know nothing about.
  2. Let family members know about the estate plan. It is not necessary to let your family members know about all of the intimate details of your estate plan; at the very least they need to know that you have taken the time to create one and where it can be found.
  3. Use discretionary trusts for problem beneficiaries. Instead of completely disinheriting a beneficiary who may squander their inheritance or use it against your wishes, you can require the beneficiary’s share be held in a lifetime discretionary trust and name a third party, such as a bank or trust company, as trustee.  This will allow you to control when the beneficiary will receive distributions and who will inherit anything that is left when the beneficiary dies.
  4. Keep the estate plan up to date. Estate planning is not a single transaction, it is an ongoing process. Therefore, as the law and your family, assets and circumstances change, so should your estate plan. An up to date plan shows that you took the time to review and revise the plan as your family and financial situations have changed. This, in turn, will discourage challenges since the plan will encompass your current estate planning goals.

The Bottom Line on Will and Trust Contests

Will and trust contests are on the rise. Putting together an estate plan that is designed to head off challenges will go a long way to giving you and your loved ones peace of mind.

If you are interested in learning more about how to create and maintain an estate plan that will be difficult to overturn, please give our office a call.


Blog Categories

401(k)

AB Trust

ABLE Program

Abuse

Addiction

Adult Beneficiaries

Advancement of share

Agent

Aging

Alcohol abuse

Amendment of Trust

Annual exclusion

Annuity

Armed Service Personnel

Asset Protection

Attorney

Avoid Probate

Basis

Beneficiary

Beneficiary Designations

Birth

Business Succession

Buy-Sell Agreement

Capacity

Caregiver

Celebrity

Changes in life

Changes in tax law

Charitable Planning

Children

Cognitive Impairment

Community Property

Compensation

Conservatorship

Core Values

Corporate Trustee

Court

Creditor Protection

Creditors

Death

Debts

Decanting

Deed

Digital Estate Planning

Discretionary Trusts

Disinherit

Divorce

Divorce Protection

Documents

Driving

Drug abuse

Duress

Dynasty Trust

Dysfunctional Family

Education

Elder Law

Equal Division

Estate Planning

Executor

Fair Division

Family

Farming and Ranching

Fees

Fiduciary

Financial Power of Attorney

Flexibility

Fraud

Funding Your Trust

Funeral

Generational Planning

Gifting

Government Assistance

Grandchildren

GSST

Guardian

Guardianship

Health Care

Health Care Agent/Proxy

Health Savings Account

Heirlooms

Heirs

HIPAA

Holographic Will

House

Incapacity

Income Tax

Inheritance

Instruction

Insurance

Intent Letters

Internet

Inter-vivos Trusts

Intestacy

Inventory

IRA

Irrevocable Trusts

Joint Tenancy

Keepsakes

Kids

Law Firm

Lawsuits

Liability

Liability Insurance

Life Estate

Life Events

Life Insurance

Lifetime Planning

Lifetime QTIP

Lifetime QTIP Trust

Limited Liability Company

Living Probate

Living Trust

Living Will

LLC

Loans

Long-Term Care

Lottery Winnings

Marital Property

Marraige

Medicaid Planning

Meeting

Mental Illness

Minor Children

Money

Moving to/from a State

Myths

Newlyweds

NEWSLETTERS

Nursing Home

Oral Wills

Overseas Estate Planning

Parents

Partners

Payable on Death (POD)

Peace of Mind

Personal Property

Personal Representative

Pets

Physicians

Planning

Portibility

Power of Appointment

Power of Attorney

Predator Protection

Predators

Prenuptual Agreements

Privacy

Probate

Procrastination

Promises

Property

QTIP Trust

Remarraige

Rental Property

Restatement of Trust

Retirement Assets

Review

Revocable Trusts

Saving Money

Simultaneous Death

Special Needs Trusts

Spendthrift Tust

Spouse

Stand Alone Retirement Trust (SRT)

Storage of Documents

Storing Documents

Stress

Successor Trustee

Surgery

Tangible Personal Property Memorandum

Taxes

Testamentary Trusts

Theft

Timeshare

Title

Transfer of Assets

Transfer on Death (TOD)

Trust Administration

Trust Contest

Trust Funding

Trust Protector

Trustee

Trusts

Umbrella Insurance

Unborn Children

Unfinished Estate Plan

Update Planning

Vacation Poperty

Values

Will

Will Contests

Wishes

Year End Strategies

Young Families

Archived Posts

2020
2019
December
November
October
September
August
July
Being Deployed? Here’s What You Need to Do
The Only Constant in Life is Change: When Circumstances Change, So Should Your Estate Plan
Beyond Wills and Trusts: 3 Documents Everyone Needs
Reconsider Outright Inheritances: How to Protect Your Heirs and Your Legacy from Bad Decisions and Outside Influences
Expand Your Cast to Prevent Chaos
Planning for Blended Families: Second or Later Marriages and Divorce of Beneficiaries
The Flexible Protection of Trust-Based Planning
Why “I Love You” Wills Really Don’t Say “I Love You”
Estate Plans for College Students and Other Young Adults: Why It’s the Perfect Time to Set Your Kids Up for Success
Your Guide to Better Incapacity Protection in Your Estate Plan
Are You Familiar With Community Property Trusts?: Learn How These Special Trusts Can Help Reduce Income Taxes
Modernizing an Outdated Estate Plan: What to do with a Confusing, Old Trust
Have You Considered a Dynasty Trust for Your Family’s Estate? Why You Should Think Twice Before Ruling One Out
What if you don’t die?: Why Ignoring the Importance of Incapacity Planning Can Have Serious Consequences
Don’t Put Off Till Tomorrow What You Can Do Today: Why It’s Time to Talk with Your Family and Your Estate Planning Attorney
Who Will Inherit Your Financial Wisdom?: Passing on More Than Just Wealth
How Tax Reform Will Impact You and Your Estate Planning
Will My Debt Outlive Me?: Your Questions About Debt After Death Answered
Planning Your Summer Vacation?: 5 Things to Consider Now
Talk to Your Family over the Holidays about Your Estate Plan
12 Crucial Insights for Protecting Your Furry Family Members
Does Your Family Know About Your Estate Plan?: A Guide for How Much to Share and With Whom
Planning for the Financial Future of a Troubled Adult Child: Your 3-Step Guide to Creating an Informed Estate Plan
Keeping the Peace After You Are Gone: Planning With an Aim Towards Building Unity
Have You Taken Advantage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act Planning Window?: Important Estate Planning Tips You Should Act on Now
Back-To-School Preparation: Not Just About the School Supplies- Use This Time to Revisit The Parts of Your Estate Plan That Impact Your Children Most
What Do the New 199A Regulations Mean for You?: New Choices and Opportunities for Tax Savings
Three Legal Strategies When Facing a Major Health Event: What You and Your Family Need to Know
How to Protect Your Retirement Account
2018 Midterm Elections: What Do They Mean For Your Estate Plan?: Strategic Planning Guidance in Light of the Midterm Results
Estate Planning Projects to Tackle in the New Year
Three Liability Planning Tips for Physicians You Can Use Too
June
3 Estate Planning Secrets the Wealthy Use That You Can Too!: Strategies to Enhance Your Success
Five Key Considerations for Your Estate Plan
Your Personal Property Memorandum: 4 Tips for Success
How to Coordinate Your Retirement and Estate Plans
How to Avoid a Disastrous Will or Trust Contest
Is Your Estate Plan Probate-Proof?
Want a Greater Sense of Purpose? Plan Your Legacy
What is Asset Protection and Do I Need It?
Caution: Your Traditional Asset Protection Plan Is Set Up to Fail
Your Vacation Checklist
Estate Plans for College Students and Other Young Adults: Why It’s the Perfect Time to Set Your Kids Up for Success
Does Your Estate Plan Protect Your Adult Beneficiaries?
Discretionary Trusts – How to Protect Your Beneficiaries from Bad Decisions and Outside Influences
Estate Planning Is Not Just About Money
Is Your Estate Plan Unfinished? Don’t Wait to Complete This Important Process!
When Equal Is Not Necessarily Fair
Lifetime QTIP Trusts – The Gift That Keeps Giving
One Year After the Historic 2016 Election: Strategic Estate Planning in Uncertain Times
Funding Your Revocable Living Trust to Avoid Probate
4 Tips for Avoiding a Will or Trust Contest
The Harmonious Family that Won't Fight
3 Asset Protection Tips You Can Use Now
Estate Planning for Rental Property Owners
Estate Planning is More Than Just Death Planning
The Trust Protection Myth: Your Revocable Trust Protects Against Lawsuits
Loan, Gift, or Advancement: Why the Classification Matters
What to Bring to Your First Meeting with the Estate Planning Attorney
April
March
February
January
2018
September
August
July
Not Married? You’re not alone - but you still need a plan. Estate Planning for People Living Together, Bachelors, and Bachelorettes
Are Your Documents Following the Same Script? Basics of Beneficiary Forms and Estate Planning
A Trust for Fluffy or Fido? Why Every Pet Parent Needs to Consider a Pet Trust Today
Roth IRA Conversions After Tax Reform...Still a good idea? What are the implications for your family if you don’t spend all the money?
Estate Planning When Not All of Your Kids are in the Family Business
Beneficiary Designations and a Blended Family: Why You Need to Think Before You Sign
The One Thing Every New Grandparent MUST Do As Soon as Possible
How to Fix 5 Common Estate Planning Problems
How to Leave Your Life Insurance and Retirement Plan to Your Minor Children
Financial Planning. Tax Planning. Legacy Planning. Estate Planning - How many plans do I need?!
Why Not Just Go on NoloⓇ and Create Your Own Estate Planning Documents Cheaply?
3 Things You Must Do Once Your Divorce Is Final
Protecting Your Children’s Inheritance When You are Divorced
Finding the Right Fit: Questions For Prospective Wills and Trusts Attorneys
The Biggest Threat to Successful Estate Planning
Steps For Starting the End-of-Life Conversation
Joint Tenancy Pitfalls: The ‘Simple’ Fix that Can Leave Your Family Broke
One Call You Must Make After You Buy a Home-That You’ve Probably Forgotten
3 Tips For Every New Homeowner
Declare your Independence from Court Interference!
What To Do With Your Beloved Collection
Legal Considerations When Getting Your New College Student Ready to Go
Digital Afterlife- An Estate Plan For Your Facebook Account
How an Estate Planning Letter of Intent Can Help Your Family
Kids and Investors Are Not the Only Options
Retirement Planning for Business Owners
Passing Along a Benefit, Not a Burden - Why Incapacity Planning for Business Owners is an Indispensable Component of Your Plan
March
February
2017
September
August
July
May
April
Updating Your Revocable Trust: How Many “Tweaks” Are Too Many?
U.S. Supreme Court Rules Inherited IRAs are Not Protected from Creditors
4 Tips for Avoiding a Will or Trust Contest
Three Liability Planning Tips for Physicians Anyone Can Use
Three Estate Planning Mistakes Farmers and Ranchers Make and How to Avoid Them
The Wrong Successor Trustee Can Derail Your Final Wishes
The Trust Protection Myth: Your Revocable Trust Protects Against Lawsuits
The Tragic Loss of Star Trek’s Anton Yelchin: Lessons for Estate and Legacy Planning
The Three-Year Review and The Three-Year Plan
The Shocking Truth About Asset Protection Planning
The Pros and Cons of Probate
The Perils of Promises...Marlon Brando’s Story
The Lifetime QTIP Trust: Or (How to Maintain Control of Your Estate and Keep Spouse No. 2 Happy)
The Lifetime QTIP Trust: Or (How to Maintain Control of Your Estate and Keep Spouse No. 2 Happy)
The IRS Took Half of Tony Soprano’s Estate: Don’t Fall into the Same Trap!
The Essential Legal Documents You Need for Incapacity Planning
Surprise! You Can’t Easily Disinherit Your Spouse in the U.S.
Stress Test Your Estate Plan
Sonny Bono’s Procrastination in Creating a Will Led to Years of Estate Battles
Skyrocketing Probate Fees – Another Reason to Avoid Probate Court
Revocable Trust vs. Irrevocable Trust: Which Is Best for You?
Prince’s Sad and Incredibly Expensive Mistake! (Are You Making It, Too?)
3 Powers to Consider Giving to a Trust Protector
Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Will: 3 Critical Mistakes
Parental Warning: If You Own Your Property this Way, You May Accidentally Disinherit Your Own Children
Over 70% of Elvis Presley’s Estate Paid in Taxes & Fees: How Can You Avoid the Same Trap?
Nosey Neighbor Nellie Can Find Out About Your Probate. Really.
Michael Jackson’s Estate Pulled into Seemingly Endless Probate Court Battles
Lifetime QTIP Trusts – The Gift That Keeps Giving
Is Your Estate Plan as Stale as Last Week’s Ham Sandwich? 5 Reasons to Update Your Estate Plan
March
Is a Revocable Living Trust Right for You?
Is a Payable on Death Account Right for You and Your Family?
Irrevocable Trust Decanting in 4 Steps
IRS Announcement: Estate Tax Closing Letters Will Now Only Be Issued Upon Request
Investment, Insurance, Annuity, and Retirement Planning Considerations
If You Die Without a Will, Does Your Spouse Inherit Your Entire Estate?
How to Pick a Trustee, Executor, and Agent Under a Power of Attorney
How to Minimize the (Voluntary) Federal Estate Tax with Portability
How to Minimize Legal Fees After Death
HELP! This Probate Is Taking Forever!!!
Four Steps to Stop Mail Addressed to a Deceased Person
Five Things You Need to Know About the Recently ABLE Act
Flo Jo’s Tragic Mistake: A Missing Will
5 Reasons Why Uncle Bill May Not Make a Good Trustee
Financial Firms Roll Out Form Aimed at Stopping Financial Elder Abuse
5 Reasons to Embrace Estate Planning
Estate Planning: 3 Reasons We Run the Other Way
Estate Planning Basics for Newlyweds – How to Get Prepared for the Unexpected
Escape From a Bad Trust: 5 Strong Reasons to Decant Your Trust
Doris Duke’s Trustee Bilked Estate for $1M: How Well Do You Know Yours?
Don’t Leave Your Trust Unguarded: 6 Key Ways a Trust Protector Can Help You
Does Your Estate Plan Protect Your Adult Beneficiaries?
Who’s Going to Get It: Do You Really Know the Beneficiaries of Your Dynasty Trust?
Dispelling the Top 3 Estate Planning Myths
Discretionary Trusts – How to Protect Your Beneficiaries From Bad Decisions and Outside Influences
Did you include your grandkids in your will? 5 Tips to Avoid Common Problems
Did Whitney Houston Leave Too Much Money To Bobbi Kristina?
Dennis Hopper Saves Heirs with Last Minute Estate Plan Changes
Decanting: How to Fix a Trust That Isn’t Getting Better With Age
Avoiding Guardianship When you are Incapacitated
Decanting: How to Fix a Trust That Isn’t Getting Better With Age
Who Should I Choose as a Successor Trustee
Celebrities Who Failed To Recognize Unborn Children in Their Wills: A Teachable Lesson
February
Caution: Your Traditional Asset Protection Plan is Set Up to Fail
How to Choose a Trustee
Name a Guardian for Your Child
Caution: Creditors Now Have Easy Access to Inherited IRAs
Big Bang Theory Star’s “Ironclad” Prenup Challenged: How Does Yours Compare?
Will Your Family Be Able to Find Your Original Last Will?
Ways to Avoid Court Proceedings
Are Handwritten Intentions Enforceable? Princess Diana Thought So…
An Estate Planning Checklist to Facilitate Wealth Transfer
Aging.gov: A New Resource for Older Americans and Their Families
AB Trusts – Do You Need to Get Rid of Yours?
A Powerful Exercise to Surface the Values You Want to Pass on to the Next Generation
10 Types of Trusts: A Quick Look
5 Tragic Mistakes People Make When Leaving Assets to Their Pets
5 Things Every New Mother Needs to Know About Wills
New Legislation Could Mean the End of Estate and GSTT Taxes What This Means for You and Your Family
5 Reasons to Protect Your Retirement Accounts Now
5 Mistakes Made by Successor Trustees (and How to Prevent Them)
5 Good Reasons to Decant a Trust
3 Ways to Minimize Estate Planning Fees
3 Tips for Overwhelmed Executors
3 Simple Ways to Avoid Probate Costs
3 Reasons You Want to Avoid Probate
Who Needs an Estate Plan?
AB Trusts – Do You Need to Get Rid of Yours?
How to Pick a Trustee, Executor, and Agent Under a Power of Attorney
Better to Play it Safe: Proactive Estate Planning and Cognitive Impairment
Will Your Revocable Living Trust Avoid Probate? It Depends.
Why Your Estate Planning Project Must Morph into a Process
Estate Planning Tips for Commitment Without Marraige
3 Celebrity Probate Disasters and Tragic Lessons
3 Examples of When an Irrevocable Trust Can – and Should – Be Modified
January
2016
December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January
2015
December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January
2014
2013
2012


Nennig Law Offices, LLC assists clients in Madison, WI and throughout Southern Wisconsin including Verona, Middleton, Sun Prairie, Cross Plains,Sauk City, Belleville, Waunakee, Mount Horeb, Oregon, Black Earth, DeForest,Monona, McFarland, Stoughton, Cambridge, Deerfield and Fitchburg.



© 2020 Nennig Law Offices, LLC
6418 Normandy Ln, Ste 225, Madison, WI 53719
| Phone: 608-661-4333

Estate Planning | Asset Protection | Business Succession Planning | Special Needs Planning | Planning for Children | Advanced Estate Planning | Probate & Estate Administration | Estate Planning for High Net Worth Individuals | Estate Planning with Wills | Trusts & Estate Planning | Estate Planning for Non-Traditional Families | Estate Tax Planning | Estate Litigation | Guardianships | Pet Trusts | Who We Are | Becoming A Client

Attorney Website Design By
Zola Creative