Media Estate Planning Lawyer Explains Being Left Out of Your Parent’s Will
As an experienced Media Estate Planning Lawyer, clients come to me all the time with questions about being left out of their parents will. If you have a situation in which your parents have executed a Will and at some point in time they have decided that you are no longer a beneficiary under the Will. You do have certain recourses, but it is depended upon the certain facts that are associated with the manner in which your mother and/or your father, and it will be determined by which Will we’re talking about, actually executed, signed or entered into the Will. The first thing that we want to look at is the time they executed the Will were they operating under what we call capacity. Did they know who they were, who the president was, who were the objects of their bounty, what assets did they own, and did they have the sufficient mental capacity to make an intelligent decision at the time they did this? Your obligation is at that point if you want to contest the Will is to question that capacity.
As a dedicated Media Lawyer I say, the way in which you question that capacity is to secure witnesses as to the time that the Will was executed. Make sure you secure medical information or records to determine whether your parent did or did not suffer from a medical incapacity such as dementia or Alzheimer’s or some other type of mental illness that would have precluded them from making an intelligent decision at the time that they executed the Will. That is the critical point here, it’s not whether they were unable to do it two weeks before. But it’s whether they had what they call a lucid moment at the time that they signed the Will.
If they did not and they did enter this Will under those terms without capacity, then you have the opportunity to file what they call a Will contest or a petition with the Orphan’s Court in the particular county that controls estates and Wills. Then this will raise the issue before the judge to say, “I believe this will was to be entered when my parent did not have capacity to execute the Will at the time the Will was executed.” The court will then listen to all of your evidence which would be witnesses who were present at the time of the execution or witnesses who know about their medical condition and then the court will hold a hearing. From there the judge will determine whether you have proven your case as to whether the individual had capacity or did not have capacity.
The second way you can contest this Will is whether someone had undue influence over your parent before they executed or at the time that they executed the will. This criterion is a little different than at the time they actually signed it. It’s whether someone was influencing them when they had a weakened medical condition that precluded them from actually understanding what they were doing and whether they were being forced or influenced into doing certain things. We have this situation sometimes with healthcare providers who are there every day, with long lost family members who arrive unexpectedly at the household. They come in and now are the best friend of your parent while you’re away in a different state and they start to influencing that individual to say, “Hey, benefit me.”
At that point in time, your burden is to show the undue influence and the weakened intellect of your individual parent at the time they were subject to the influence. Then you have to show that the person who actually benefited from the Will, actually did get the benefit. That is also determined by the court through the process of a hearing after evidence is produced. This is somewhat of a short answer, but what you’re looking for is individuals who have influenced your parents, had access to your parents to influence them, or in a confidential relationship with them. To see if they were a power of attorney or an agent or somebody who had access to gain some influence over them to change their mind against their will because of their weakened intellect. That’s how you can contest the Will.
If you have any questions about the recourse if you were left out of you parents Will, please contact our Media Estate Planning Lawyers for a free case evaluation.
This educational blog was brought to you by experienced Estate Planning Lawyer Walter J. Timby. Our law firm proudly represents clients throughout Media, as well as Pennsylvania, the greater Philadelphia area, and New Jersey.