Our St. Paul, Minnesota readers may want to pay attention to the fact that the number of will contests around the country are increasing. This may be attributable to the fact that many people are living to an older age, meaning there is more likely to be a question about that person's mental ability to make a will. Others say that because families often live a long distance from each other and are often blended, it is more likely that there will be a misunderstanding and some sort of will contest or other dispute.
Will contest commonly arise when an elderly person, without an apparent explanation, makes a new will that radically alters his or her last wish. When children go omitted from a will, they also may claim that their parental figure suffered from diminished capacity. Finally, even a mentally sound person can in their old age be subject to unscrupulous people who try to wedge themselves into the life of that person in order to obtain an inheritance.
In addition to gently and generally discussing the issue of estate planning with their aging relatives, Minnesota residents can take several other steps to prevent contest or even to present the misuse of funds during the final period of their loved one's life.
For one, a family can get a professional medical opinion about a loved one's capacity to make a will should they suspect that there will be a will contest down the road. Even without the opinion of a doctor, careful observation of the person can be very helpful in documenting whether or not they have capacity to make a will. Families can also try to remove people who are improperly influencing them from their loved one's life, and may even need at some point to invoke a power of attorney or get court relief in order to prevent the creation of a will that may later only serve as a cause for probate litigation.
No one wants to be involved in a probate dispute following the death of a loved one. Unfortunately, despite a family's best efforts to avoid it, a probate dispute may still occur. If that should happen, an attorney who is experienced in probate litigation may be a valuable resource for the family.
Source: The Glen Rose Reporter, "Estate planning: No time for holiday from careful observation," Sandra W. Reed, Nov. 25, 2013