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Will contests: Understanding the basics

When men and women become concerned about how the people they love in life will be cared for and how the assets they have cultivated in life will be distributed after their death, they may execute a will. A will may be carefully drawn up in an attorney's office or scribbled on the back of a napkin. And although the individual who has created the will may intend for the document to have a completely binding legal effect, the individual's loved ones may find themselves disputing its creation, contents or practical consequences in the wake of the individual's death.

There is no harm inherently attached to the act of contesting a will. Contesting a will does not mean that one does not care about the individual who drafted the will, nor does it mean that one does not respect that individual's wishes. Certainly, some will contests are motivated by greed or a need for control. However, many will contests are motivated by love and other noble intentions.

The law acknowledges that there are many legitimate reasons one may have for contesting a will. The law also acknowledges that there are many circumstances under which the terms of a will may be set aside in part or as a whole. These circumstances include forgery, lack of capacity to execute and sign a will, disinheritance and undue influence. An experienced attorney can help to explain these legal distinctions as they apply to any particular situation.

It is important to understand that not all will contests need to be litigated in a trial setting. Many will contests can be settled before a trial becomes necessary. Experienced attorneys are equipped to handle both trial situations and settlement negotiations. Given that will contests tend to be personal and highly emotional processes, it is important to hire an attorney that you can trust with the particulars of your situation.

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Mason & Helmers
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