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Unequal bequests to siblings may spur will contest

Here at Chayet & Danzo, LLC, we help clients at every stage of the estate planning and probate process. For example, we help them write wills and trusts to determine who will receive their property. We also assist people after loved ones have died to go through the probate process in court to have wills administered and property distributed as the decedent directed. 

Sibling rivalry 

At this stage, however, a family crisis can arise if the terms of the will are upsetting to survivors for some reason and that dispute may evolve into a legal proceeding such as a will contest. One scenario in which this may happen is when a parent’s will divides property unequally among his or her children. The parent may even explicitly disinherit one sibling completely or omit a sibling from the list of children named in the will. 

In this situation, the sibling or siblings who are set to inherit less property or money than the others may raise questions about the validity of the will or the circumstances surrounding its execution. They may decide to contest the will if they think there is a legal basis to challenge its validity. 

Colorado will contests 

In Colorado, a will contest can be based on things like: 

  • Incapacity: Did the testator (will writer) have the mental capacity to create a binding will?
  • Undue influence: Was the testator under extreme, improper pressure from another person that took away the testator’s free will, causing him or her to execute or modify a will in a way he or she otherwise would not have done to the benefit of the third party?
  • Improper execution: Was there a problem with the signing or witnessing?
  • Duress: Was the testator under severe duress when he or she executed or amended the will?
  • Fraud: Did the testator execute the will in reliance that something is true that was actually a product of fraud?
  • Mistake: Was there a mistake in the drafting of the will or was it drafted based on mistaken belief?
  • Revocation: Is there evidence that the will in question was actually revoked? 

Parental reasons 

While it is always possible that a will unevenly distributing assets to siblings could be found invalid, it is also true that sometimes a parent has a valid reason for this kind of decision. Reasons to leave an unequal distribution among siblings may include: 

  • A child may have a problem with alcohol or drugs
  • A child may be much wealthier than other siblings
  • A child may already be supported by a spouse or the other parent
  • A child, especially one with severe disabilities, may become ineligible for public benefits if he or she receives an inheritance
  • A child may have cut off contact with the parent 

These kinds of family circumstances can lead to extreme conflict when the terms of a will are unexpected or unwelcome after a parent dies. In such a situation, a sibling may either want to contest the will or may need to defend it in a will contest. Anyone in either situation should immediately talk to an experienced probate litigation attorney to understand the ramifications and options and to understand any legal deadlines involved. 

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