A will is an integral part of your estate plan, and it’s important to make sure it holds up after you pass on. Unfortunately, people may attempt to contest your will in an effort to benefit themselves.
Grounds for Contesting a Will in Illinois
In order to invalidate a will, the person contesting it must have legitimate grounds for doing so. Simply disagreeing with the provisions set forth in your will is not enough; they need to prove it is actually invalid.
One reason why a will might be invalid is if the testator (you in the case of your own will) was under undue influence to agree to the terms set forth. In this case, the person contesting your will would try to prove that someone had somehow influenced you to sign it against your own best interests.
Lack of testamentary capacity
Another way a will might be invalidated is if someone proves that you were not mentally coherent enough to know what you were signing or to remember what your estate consists of.
Additionally, one might try to prove that your will is a forgery, either by claiming it wasn’t signed in your handwriting or that the witnesses signing your will weren’t trustworthy.
All wills must be signed by the testator in the presence of two witnesses. If it is not, then it isn’t valid.
What Happens if a Will Is Invalidated?
If a will is successfully invalidated, what happens next depends on the situation. If you had a previous will to the one that was invalidated, those terms will be put into effect. If there is no other will, Illinois intestate succession laws will come into play. These laws determine who gets what depending on whether you have children, a surviving spouse, and so forth.
Precautions to Take Against Will Contests
In order to make sure your wishes are met, there are some measures you can take in order to protect your will from contest.
Be clear and complete
A well-constructed, clearly-worded will is vital to making sure it’s fully enforceable after you pass on. Working with an estate planning attorney can help you make sure it covers everything it needs to.
Include a no-contest clause
In some cases, a no-contest clause may be effective. A no-contest clause states that anyone who contests the will would forfeit all or part of their share in it. However, this only works if someone already has a stake in your will and would likely be unsuccessful in contesting it anyway.
Keep your estate plan up-to-date
Keeping an estate plan up-to-date after major life changes can make it harder to invalidate. If it is somehow invalidated, the results will likely be less dramatic.
Communicate with family and other heirs
Communication with your family and other heirs on the generalities of your will can prevent contention later on. If they at least know that you have taken the time to create a plan, there’s less of a chance that someone will contest it successfully.
Work with an estate planning attorney
Finally, working with an estate planning attorney is vital throughout the process, especially if you have a significantly large estate. Hart David Carson LLP can help you implement strategies that can safeguard your will after you pass on.