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Probate Law – Contested Will

It is always going to be hard when you lose a loved one. Making final arrangements can be an emotional struggle and a lot during this vulnerable time. But, as many people may have found out through experience, laying your loved one to rest is just the beginning. When people die they often leave things behind. Trust funds, heirlooms, and estates are some of the most common items that are left behind by those who have passed on. The placement of these items is usually stated by a will that was made by the deceased, and verified by a probate.

A probate is basically “the court-supervised process of authenticating a last will and testament. It includes locating and determining the value of the person’s assets, paying their final bills and taxes, and distributing the remainder of the estate to their rightful beneficiaries,” (the balance). Probate mandates vary from state to state and probates are often put in place in cases when no will was written by the deceased. But, in cases that there is a will, probates help to ensure that the deceased wishes are honored and upheld.

But, what if there is a contest to the will as stated? A probate “hearing gives all concerned an opportunity to contest the will being admitted for probate–maybe because it’s not drafted properly or because someone is in possession of a more recent will,” (the balance). We have all heard about cases, for example, where an elderly tycoon dies and his young, recently-wedded spouse tries to petition for a piece (or a whole chunk) of his estate. But, the rich tycoon’s children from his first marriage contest citing that the will (and even the marriage) is invalid because the recently deceased was not in the right state of mind at the time that these events occurred. (Hint: Anna Nicole Smith and J. Howard Marshall). 

To contest a will a person must fill out a sheet so it can be discussed during the hearing. In normal cases, all that is needed to verify the deceased’s last will and testament are those that were there to see the creation of the most recent, signed draft of the document that was sent to the court. Oftentimes, having witnessed and signed documentation is enough to verify a will. Witnesses can be the deceased spouse, living of age children, or an executive representative of the family. 

During a difficult time such as this, a probate can help clear up and define the wishes and instructions of an estate of the deceased to their remaining loved ones. Receiving something of value like a house or acres of land will not bring back the deceased. But, it will bring comfort to the family knowing that their wishes were met. Probates can also bring peace of mind in that what was left behind can be passed down as a memory of what can never be lost and can be enjoyed and re-discovered by future descendants of the immediate family and beyond.  

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