There are a lot of reasons why we may expect to be included in someone’s will. But being family or a close friend to the deceased is no guarantee. With the right estate planning tools, anybody can be “disinherited” to some degree. That can leave you left with nothing, even if you expected to be included in someone’s will.
If you are left out of a will, you may be confused. You may be convinced that there was an influence on the deceased because as far as you know, the deceased would have wanted you to inherit money or property from the will.
The first thing you will want to do is get not just a copy of the will, but a copy of any amendments. This will help you see whether your exclusion was intended from the beginning, whether it was a more recent change, and when that change occurred.
If you feel you have grounds to contest the will, you will want to get good probate and will contest attorney, as contesting wills is very time-sensitive. Also, you could be barred from ever contesting the will if you want for too long.
Your lawyer will help you determine whether you have a claim or grounds to challenge the will. Generally, however, look at the dates of the wills, or any amendments that excluded you. Ask yourself what the deceased’s mental state or condition may have been, when any document that excluded you was executed.
Was he or she healthy, and of sound mind when documents were executed? Was there anybody in the deceased’s life that may have exerted influence on him or her to change or alter the will and exclude you? Remember that you, as the challenger of the will, have the burden to show any of these things in court through evidence.
You will have a better chance at winning a will contest if you were recently excluded—in other words, if you were included at first, and then later, an amendment or codicil to the will exclude you. Your chances of success are longer (harder) if you were excluded from the very first draft of the executed will.
If you do opt to file a lawsuit, your attorney will explore options to settle your case, without extended litigation. You may want to consider the costs of protracted litigation, as opposed to what you stood to gain from being included in the will, and attempt to come to some resolution that way.
Remember that even if you are successful, you must analyze what you would get if you win your challenge. If a prior version of the will exists and is enforceable, what would it provide to you? If there is no prior version, what would California’s intestate laws provide to you? Knowing what your “best-case scenario” is, will be of help to you in knowing your options.
Contact your Illinois estate planning lawyers at Orlowsky & Wilson, Ltd at (847) 325-5559. The Lincolnshire contested estate planning lawyers at Orlowsky & Wilson, Ltd can help you if you feel you were wrongly left out of a will.