Title

Text Resize
Print
Email
Subsribe to RSS Feed
Thursday October 17, 2019

Personal Planner

Do You Have a Difficult Family?

Do You Have a Difficult Family?

A businessman with a $2.5 billion estate passed away in 1976. He was single and many individuals, mostly unrelated to him, filed more than 40 wills with the probate court. Not surprisingly, the individuals who submitted those wills hoped to become beneficiaries of a large portion of the estate.

Twenty-two cousins fought with all of the other individuals claiming a share of the estate. In the end, each will was ruled invalid and the 22 cousins and the federal government divided the estate.

Your estate may not be worth $2.5 billion, but if you have a reasonable level of resources and a difficult family member, someone could "contest" your will or make a claim against your estate if you do not have a will. This may occur because one of your family members or potential heirs might believe that he or she is entitled to receive a larger portion of the estate. Some beneficiaries will receive a larger share if your will is valid and some will gain if the will is determined invalid. The difficult person is likely to sue if he or she can gain a larger part of your estate through legal action.

How Will a Difficult Person Attack Your Plan?


There are several ways to contest a will. An heir may claim the "testator" (the person who signed the will) lacks capacity, that there were unqualified or improper witnesses, or that there has been undue influence that invalidates the will.

What is Capacity?


Capacity is a legal term that means the testator was qualified to sign a will. Fortunately, someone doesn't lose capacity simply because of a "senior moment" or a brief period of forgetfulness. Rather, capacity is defined as (i) the ability to understand that the will transfers the estate, (ii) knowledge of the general type and nature of the property, and (iii) the ability to identify the family members who are potential heirs.

What Questions May the Attorney Ask?


Your attorney will be very interested in making certain that your will is properly signed and qualified to transfer your property. He or she may ask general questions to enable you to show that you're qualified to sign the will. The questions may include, "Why are you here?" and "What do you own?" and "Who are the members of your family?"

You should briefly respond to each of the questions. The attorney and the witnesses will then be able to testify about your capacity if a difficult person claims that you were not capable of signing a proper will.

You should be able to affirm that you understand a will transfers your property and in a general way identify the major assets in your estate. You do not need to explain specifically all the property or the exact value but a general explanation is necessary.

The people you describe as potential heirs will typically be your spouse, children, brothers, sisters, grandchildren, other relatives and special friends. If you are specifically including or excluding someone, you may wish to mention that fact.

In some cases, a doctor is asked to provide supporting information about capacity. He or she may describe your general mental and physical condition and any medications you are currently taking.

The key day is the date you actually sign the will. Even if you just have a "lucid interval" on that day, you generally will be qualified to sign the will. The attorney and witnesses may later be called to testify and describe your general conduct and statements to assist the court in determining whether you were qualified on that date to sign the will.

What is Undue Influence?


As we become more senior, we tend to have less physical and mental strength. In very senior years, we may have a level of weakness that permits another person to impose their will upon us. The action of a child or caregiver in causing us to sign a will that reflects his or her intent rather than our intent is called "undue influence."

Your child or caregiver may encourage you to sign a new will that would disinherit other children or other beneficiaries and give the estate to him or her. In some cases, the child or caregiver has paid the attorney for a new will that makes him or her the sole beneficiary.

What are the Flags to Watch For?


There are three specific flags or conditions that you should understand. First, if you have physical and mental weakness, you may be more vulnerable. Second, be cautious if the influencer approaches you and offers to obtain the document or pay the attorney. Third, it is a red flag if the influencer is going to receive a larger than normal benefit under the new will.

Is it Acceptable to Sign Your Will if You are in the Hospital?


Because many individuals discover a need to update their will after they become ill, it is very common to sign a will or trust in the hospital. However, there are some precautions or steps that should be taken.

First, when someone is signing the will or trust, their attorney, witnesses and medical staff may be in the room, but their beneficiaries should not be in their presence. The advisors and medical staff in the room are there to protect the welfare of the person who is signing and should be objective because they are not receiving a bequest or inheritance.

Second, it is important for the person who is signing the will to be able to explain to the attorney, the witnesses and any medical staff present that he or she understands the will, has thought through the reasons for rewriting the will and to disclose the name of any person who suggested that the will should be rewritten.

While these steps cannot guarantee that a difficult person will not file a claim, these steps can significantly decrease the risk of a will contest.

Does a No-contest Clause Work?


Many states permit the inclusion of a "no-contest clause" into a will. This clause states that if an heir contests the will, he or she will lose their inheritance altogether.

No-contest clauses have often been upheld. One strategy that some individuals use is to provide a reasonable bequest in the will for a difficult heir. If the child or other heir contests the will and loses, he or she will be giving up some meaningful benefit. This may discourage the child or other heir from contesting the will.

Summary


Your will is designed to carry out your intent. If you sign a new will in your very senior years when you are not in the strongest mental and physical health, it can still be valid and upheld. However, taking a few common sense steps to increase the likelihood that there will not be a contest by a difficult family member is quite easy and good judgment on your part.

Published June 21, 2019

Print
Email
Subsribe to RSS Feed

Previous Articles

How to Give Property to Children

Seven Questions on Gifts to Children

Caring for Minor Children

Who Will Receive Your Property?

Important Life Decisions

scriptsknown

Shelby Harder, 2018
Dr. Irving Auld and Dorothy
Roher Auld Scholarship

"Many students take for granted what a university has to offer. However, I am thankful every single day for the opportunity to attend this prestigious school. At Lawrence, you have the ability to engage in Socratic debates about the world we live in at dinner, play recreational or NCAA sports, and talk one on one with brilliant professors. At Lawrence, you don't just 'learn' a subject, you are immersed in it. You dive into the liberal arts and these professors show you the beauty in it all, and how everything is tied together. I am a Biochemistry major with a soft spot for rocket science, philosophy, and evolution. Lawrence is my dream school, and it would have never been possible without the Dr. Irving Auld and Dorothy Roher Auld Scholarship. I am forever grateful for their generosity."

Juliana E. Olsen-Valdez, 2018
Carroll Family Scholarship

"Lawrence University is a great place for students looking to embrace their multi-interested approach to learning. As a Geology major, I have spent many long hours in laboratories. But, I have also had the opportunity to organize and lead students on outdoor backpacking trips, help build a stronger community for International students, participate in dialogues on campus initiatives, attend dozens of musical events, and study abroad in a field-based geology program, all while taking classes in a variety of academic spheres on campus. Lawrence, as an institution and student body, creates a collective of learners, listeners, and leaders who are continuously evolving their understanding of the world around them. I am fortunate to have the support of the Carroll Family Scholarship, so that I can say I am a part of this exceptional community too!"

Weiqi "Vicky" Liang, 2019
Marian H. Cuff Endowed Scholarship

"Lawrence is a special institution with nice people around the campus. I better myself by trying out different things and using new ways to think critically. Even though I am a Philosophy major, I have successfully taken classes in Anthropology, Biology, Economics, and Government. In addition, I still find many great extracurricular opportunities to explore, such as singing with Viking Chorale, even though I am not a music major. While having the great experience of volunteering at the elderly center last year, I became an elder advocacy coordinator at the Volunteer Community Service Center. At Lawrence, I've learned to handle difficult academic problems while looking forward to exploring possible opportunities. I am very grateful to be awarded the Marian H. Cuff Endowed Scholarship for every year I have been here, and appreciate that the scholarship has provided this wonderful Lawrence experience to me."

Anthony Cardella, 2018
Ansorge Family Scholarship

"I am so excited that I am able to attend Lawrence University. I know that I will make great progress studying piano with Dr. Michael Mizrahi. Since being at Lawrence I've already made a lot of progress and I really love it here. I am so grateful for the Ansorge Family Scholarship that made it possible for me to come to Lawrence because without it, I might not have been able to afford the cost of attending a school that is a great fit for me and a place where I will learn so much and go so far."

Milwaukee-Downer Scholarships and Professorships

Some of the many recipients of Milwaukee-Downer scholarships gather for a photo with Carolyn King Stephens M-D'62 and Marlene Crupi-Widen M-D'55 in January 2014 at the annual scholarship luncheon.

Rosamund Victoria Bille Adler Scholarship
Dr. Charles E. Albright Scholarship
Helen Daniels Bader Scholarship
James G. and Ethel M. Barber Scholarship
Catharine Beecher Endowed Fund for Downer Women
Bessie A. Bell Scholarship
Berk Scholarship
Frederick C. Best Scholarship
Beta Study Club Scholarship
Lynde Bradley Scholarship
Lucia R. Briggs-Alumnae Scholarship
Edith Lange Brooks Scholarship
Anne Barman Caldwell Scholarship
Alice Miller Chester Scholarship
City of Milwaukee Student Funds Scholarship
Milwaukee-Downer Class of 1940 Fund
Milwaukee-Downer Class of 1942 Fund
College Endowment Association Scholarship
Janet Cope Crawford Scholarship
Jessie Mabbott Daniels Scholarship
F. T. Day Scholarship
Rufus Dodge Scholarship
Julia P. Ely and Hannah R. Vedder Memorial Scholarship
General Endowed Scholarship - M-D College
Dr. Alfred W. and Mrs. Ada F. Gray Scholarship
Berenice E. Hess Scholarship Endowment
Lucille Ray Hibbard Scholarship
Belle Austin Jacobs Scholarship
Helen McDermott Jurack and Ronald J. Mason Scholarship
Marjorie S. Logan Scholarship
Nellie Maxwell Scholarship
S. Annabelle & Paul McGuire Scholarship
Memorial Scholarship Fund - Milwaukee-Downer
Milwaukee-Downer Class of 1953 Scholarship
Milwaukee-Downer Class of 1955 Scholarship
Milwaukee-Downer Class of 1956 Scholarship
Milwaukee-Downer Class of 1957 Scholarship
Milwaukee-Downer Class of 1958 and 1959 50th Reunion Scholarship
Milwaukee-Downer Club Scholarship
Milwaukee-Downer/Lawrence College Consolidation 50th Anniversary Scholarship
Francis Evelyn Kelley Morgan Memorial Scholarship
O'Neill-Anderson Family Scholarship Endowment
Elizabeth A. Olson Scholarship
Gilbert Haven Peirce, Sr. and Emma Elizabeth Manor Peirce Milwaukee-Downer Scholarship
Aleida J. Pieters Scholarship
Matilda Siefert Puelicher Scholarship
Elizabeth Ann Richardson Scholarship
William M. Ross Memorial Scholarship
Elizabeth Rossberg Scholarship
Charles Frederic Sammond Scholarship
Mildred L. Schroeder Scholarship
Sivyer Educational Fund for Women
Marion Merrill Smith Scholarship
Dr. Elizabeth A. Steffen Scholarship
W. Mead and Elizabeth McKone Stillman Scholarship
Strzelczyk Family Scholarship
Clare Scherf Sweetman Scholarship
Raymond H. and Jane K. Taylor Scholarship
Jerline E. Walfoort Memorial Scholarship
Barbara E. Wehr Fund
Harmony Weissbach Scholarship
Martha and Frances Wheelock Scholarship
James G. and Ethel M. Barber Professorship of Theatre and Drama
T. A. Chapman Professorship in Music
Alice G. Chapman Professorship in Physics
Alice G. Chapman Librarianship
Milwaukee-Downer College and College Endowment Association Professorship

Angela Small Fry Intia, 2019
Maurine Campbell Scholarship

"Thanks to the Maurine Campbell scholarship, I have been able to attend the amazing school that is Lawrence University. With the help from this scholarship, I have been able to pursue my dream career in chemistry working with the outstanding and extremely helpful faculty here. Even outside of chemistry I take the time for exploration into my interests and want to give back through my work as a resident life advisor, stock room assistant, and student supervisor at Bon Appetit. Everything I have learned here, academically or not has forever molded the person I am today."

LarryU Facebook Twitter Instagram YouTube

© Copyright 2019 Crescendo Interactive, Inc. All Rights Reserved
PRIVACY STATEMENT
This site is informational and educational in nature. It is not offering professional tax, legal, or accounting advice.
For specific advice about the effect of any planning concept on your tax or financial situation or with your estate, please consult a qualified professional advisor.