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What Amounts to Fraud When Contesting a Will?
Making a Will
The death of a family member is traumatic. Whether the loss was sudden or the end of a long illness, emotions tend to run high and sometimes prevent people from acting in their own best interest.
Wills are created in order to allow a person to ensure that their belongings and everything they worked hard for is distributed in a way that would please them. Specifically bequeathing items is intended to prevent arguments or hurt feelings among the beneficiaries. Most importantly, wills help a person ensure that their wishes are followed rather than allowing the courts to distribute their estate.
When the Will is Contested
However, beneficiaries sometimes argue over what may have been promised, but wasn’t in the will. These arguments can and often do result in costly litigation. One of the most common ways to challenge a will is to claim that the will was completed due to fraud.
When an interested party contests a will on a claim of fraud, two things must have happened.
- A false statement must have been made by a beneficiary to the testator (the person making the will).
- Part of the will was written as a result of the lie to award the beneficiary with additional inheritance.
A lie to the testator is not fraud if the will still treats all beneficiaries equally or as expected. Nor will a will be found to be fraudulent if a will was changed for a reason unrelated to the lie.
Anyone can contest the validity of a will if they can prove they have a right to the deceased’s estate. The challenge then becomes proving that the will was a direct result of a lie. For example, a man may believe that his brother was bequeathed an additional portion of their father’s estate because the brother told the father he would share everything with his siblings. The brother then refuses to share the property or estate holdings with his family.
When a will is contested and found to be fraudulent, the courts will throw out the portion of the will that was contested. If an entire will is found to be fraudulent, the legal system will have the entire will voided and the estate distributed according to state law.
Find an Alexandria Family Law Attorney
Will contests can be complicated and costly. A simple “No Contest” clause can be added to a will to prevent beneficiaries from changing your wishes. Contact Kamerow Law Firm for a free consultation. We have over 25 years of experience in providing high quality, cost effective representation.