While it doesn’t happen in real life as often as it does in the movies and on soap operas, Marietta GA wills and trusts lawyers do sometimes have to deal with a contested will. Wills and trusts are created in order to ensure that a deceased’s wishes are followed, as well as for the financial benefit of heirs. Additionally, they are often used to protect minor children or those with special needs.
When a will is contested, it’s usually by someone who feels that property left to the will or trust was not bequeathed appropriately. In the case of children, someone may feel he or she is a better-suited guardian than the one a parent named. It’s up to the Marietta wills and trusts lawyer to help ensure that the decedent’s wishes are carried out. This may boil down to refuting claims made by others, but the most important job is to set the will or trust up properly to begin with.
When Can Someone Contest a Will?
There are several reasons that a will can be legitimately contested:
- The decedent didn’t understand the choices he or she was making
- There is a mistake in the will
- It wasn’t properly executed (witnessed, etc.)
- The decent was unduly pressured by someone else
Contesting a will is not easy. Wills and trusts lawyers in Marietta and Cobb County do everything they can to make sure their client’s wishes are outlined according to the letter of the law in order to avoid just such a scenario. It’s also possible for a testator (the person making the will) to include a no-contest clause. The clause clearly indicates that anyone who contests the will forfeits their inheritance. This isn’t a 100% guarantee that no one will contest it, but it does offer some incentive to better follow your wishes. A Marietta Georgia wills and trusts lawyer can work with you to determine if this kind of clause might be beneficial.
When Can Someone Not Contest a Will?
There are reasons to contest a will, but “I don’t like what it says” is not one of them. An individual isn’t allowed to simply drag everyone into court to change a will because he or she isn’t happy with the way the property has been distributed. So, if your sister thinks she should have gotten your mother’s ring, but you left it to your daughter, the sister doesn’t have grounds to contest the will. Additionally, only someone with a direct financial interest is allowed to contest it. That means that a son-in-law cannot contest a will because he thinks his wife was treated unfairly.
Avoiding the Issue Altogether
The best approach, of course, is to work with an experienced Marietta wills and trusts lawyer who can set things up properly from the very beginning. The estate plan should be comprehensive and not leave room for ambiguity to be exploited later. Likewise, the attorney will make sure that each aspect of the process complies with applicable laws. As for the testator, there are things he or she can do to reduce the likelihood of a will being contested, one of the most important of which is to share what the will says and what your reasons are with beneficiaries before you pass away. This leads to less surprises later and also provides a better understanding of the decisions you have made.
DID YOU KNOW…
That if you were to pass away or become incapacitated while your child is at school, the authorities may not release your kids to those you listed on the school emergency card?
Because by law, the authorities can only leave your kids with their “legal guardian” or surviving parent if something happens to you.
If the surviving parent is unavailable or something happens to you both during school hours, your child will may possibly be placed into the care of social services until a judge (who doesn’t know you or your wishes!) should decide where they should go.
That is NOT a position you want to put your kids in—especially during a time of grief!
Fortunately, putting a plan in place to make sure your kids are protected if something happens to you is EASY!
Here’s a brief checklist to help you “get your ducks in a row” before the school year starts:
- Have I legally documented short and long-term guardians to care for my kids if something happens to me and/or my spouse during school hours?
- Do the people I listed on my child’s school emergency card match those I’ve legally named as guardians? (If not, your emergency contacts will only have permission to pick your kids up if they are sick – not care for them if something happens to you).
- Have I provided my chosen guardians with the documentation they need and instructions on what to do if called upon in an emergency situation?
- Have I prepped the babysitter who watches my child either before school or after school on what to do if something happens to me so child services are not called in?
If you answered “no” to any of these questions, now is the perfect time to get a plan in place before the hustle and bustle of school season starts!
Just call me, Cobb County family lawyer, Steve Worrall. As a dad and a lawyer I am passionate about ensuring young families protect their children. Call 770-425-6060 and ask to schedule a Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session at no charge (up to $750 value) and get $250 off your plan (any one of our 3 levels of planning packages) with the mention of this “Back to School” Article.
Together we’ll legally document your choice of guardians and create a plan that ensures your kids are cared for by the people YOU want if the unthinkable happens.