How To Dispute A Will

When someone close to you passes away, it's understandable to feel that a simple legal document doesn't adequately address your loss. And in some situations, it's wise to challenge a will in the courts. Follow this guide to determine if yours is one of those situations. The information provided here is for general information only and should not be used as legal advice.

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Five Questions To Ask Yourself About A Will Dispute

  1. Is There A Will? If the deceased didn't have a complete will, then the probate court will have to make a ruling on the assets, and in that case, your interests should be represented.
  2. Has there been a major life event that would invalidate the will? When a person gets married, that can invalidate a previous will, so don't think that you have to accept an old document.
  3. Is the executor doing his or her job properly? If the person in charge is mismanaging funds, it's possible to remove them from that position.
  4. Was the will properly filled out? There are rules regarding witnesses and signatures, and if they weren't followed, the document may be invalid.
  5. Are there conflicting documents? If you think you can prove that the will being used isn't a correct representation of your loved one's wishes, talk to an attorney to explore your options.

What Is A Typical Amount To Pay An Executor?

Each state has different guidelines for executor compensation. Some states have rates specified as a percentage of the size of the estate, while others merely have guidelines and no requirements. If your state has no requirements, it's important to discuss with your attorney and family what you feel is a proper amount. If the executor is choosing an outrageous fee for him or herself, that can be challenged in court.

Typical Costs For A Funeral

Funeral Element Median Cost In 2017
Professional service fees $2,100
Transfer of remains $325
Embalming $725
Preparation of body $250
Viewing $425
Funeral Ceremony $500
Hearse $325
Family Transport $100
Programs and death certificate $160
Metal Casket $2,400
Total $7,360

Do I Need To Make A New Will Every Couple Of Years Even If Nothing Has Changed?

It's a good idea to look over your will periodically to make sure everything is up to date. If you've undergone major life changes, such as having children or getting married, it might be a good idea to draft an entirely new will. But if only minor things have changed, you can add a codicil to your will, a simple addendum that will cover the new items you wish to include. That should save you time and money if the bulk of your will is still valid. If someone you know has added a codicil, make sure it follows all the same legal rules and is a valid component of the document.

The Most Expensive States To Die In

Rank State Average Funeral Cost Average End-Of-Life Care Cost
1 Hawaii $11,408 $21,807
2 California $8,284 $15,835
3 Alaska $7,993 $15,278
4 New York $7,968 $15,231
5 Massachusetts $7,865 $15,034
6 Maryland $7,847 $14,999
7 Connecticut $7,847 $14,999
8 Oregon $7,737 $14,790
9 Rhode Island $7,488 $14,313
10 New Jersey $7,367 $14,081

If you and your partner aren't married, and you want to leave them your assets, it's critical to draft a will to ensure they are taken care of. Instead of a joint will, it may be wise to create separate wills that each provide for one another. The same is true for same-sex couples. You don't want changes in the law that are out of your control to affect what happens to your partner after you're gone. Consult a lawyer to navigate any difficult aspects of estate planning, and create a complete will for same-sex couples.

Famous People Who Didn't Leave A Will

Name Estimated Fortune
Jimi Hendrix $80 million in music royalties
Pablo Picasso $250 million
Howard Hughes $2 billion
Bob Marley $100 million in music licensing fees
James Brown $100 million
Abraham Lincoln $85,000
Prince $300 million
Barry White $20 million

Was Walt Disney Cryogenically Frozen?

There have long been rumors that Walt Disney was fascinated by cryogenics, and that after his death, his body was frozen in the hopes that he could be brought back to life in the future. However, there is no known evidence to suggest that Disney was frozen. There is a death certificate that states he was cremated, and he has a plot at Forest Lawn in Glendale, California. There are many who believe Disney's body was actually preserved, but so far no evidence has been brought forth.

In Depth

When a loved one dies, it's easy for emotions to get in the way of practical matters, and relatives often don't stand up for themselves when there's a dispute over a will. Instead of just letting it go, it's important to understand your options. Ask yourself these questions to determine what action you should take if there is uncertainty regarding a will's validity.

Question #1: is there a will? Most people will do anything to avoid paperwork and tedious meetings with an attorney, and as a result, a lot of people don't have a will, even those with large estates. Famous names like James Brown, Bob Marley, Prince, and even Abraham Lincoln left no will, forcing their heirs and the courts to sort out how it would be divided up.

This can lead to complications, like in the case of Howard Hughes, who amassed a fortune by his death in 1976, but left behind no will, meaning he died "Inestate." The resulting court battle lasted 34 years and included dozens of relatives, along with a woman who claimed to have been his wife and a man who claimed Hughes promised him $156 million for giving him a ride in 1967.

The resulting court battle lasted 34 years and included dozens of relatives, along with a woman who claimed to have been his wife and a man who claimed Hughes promised him $156 million for giving him a ride in 1967.

If there isn't a complete will, the probate process may take a long time. It's a good idea to consult an attorney if you think you have a claim to the estate. To understand this process better, check out our full guide to wills, found right beneath this video.

Question #2: has there been a major life event that would invalidate the will? If you recently got married, and your spouse passed away before updating his or her will, that doesn't mean you have no claim to their estate. In many cases, an event like a marriage means that all previous wills are no longer valid.

If you have a prenuptial agreement, that may supersede your partner's will. But if not, the division of assets may be less clear. Anna Nicole Smith was married without a prenup, and was still locked in a court battle with her late husband's heirs when she died. In the end, the estates were fighting one another even though both parties were deceased.

Anna Nicole Smith was married without a prenup, and was still locked in a court battle with her late husband's heirs when she died.

Question #3: is the executor doing his or her job properly? One important component of a will is naming who will be in charge of managing the estate as it is divided up. One of these people is the executor, who ideally is someone who can be trusted. But as plenty of cases have shown, executors have been known to steal from the deceased, or to mismanage funds before the family ever sees them.

If there are young children involved, a guardian also has to be named. The goal is to do what's right for the children, but fights can ensue. The wrong guardian could poorly care for your child after you're gone, and relatives might fight over custody as a way of trying to get money. If these people aren't named, or you believe malfeasance is taking place, you should pursue legal action.

Typically, the executor does get paid for his or her role because of the work involved. The probate or estates code of your state will dictate standard amounts, and if the executor is trying to take unreasonable fees, they could be removed by a court order. The rules regarding executor pay vary by estate, so be sure to check out our full guide. You can find it right beneath this video.

Typically, the executor does get paid for his or her role because of the work involved.

Question #4: was the document properly filled out? Just because a will exists does not mean that it's legal. There are specific guidelines regarding signatures and witnesses, and if these weren't followed, the will could be invalidated. The individual also has to be aware of what they're signing, or else they could be tricked into giving their money away without realizing it.

This also applies to living wills. If a relative is in a coma, it's understandable that there will be debates over their medical treatment, and if someone has power of attorney, that person may be making decisions without your knowledge. You can dispute that person's position while your relative is still living.

Question #5: Are there conflicting documents? Some people have complicated requests for their money, their funerals, or what they want done with their remains, and often they make those decisions at the last minute, which can greatly complicate matters.

Some people have complicated requests for their money, their funerals, or what they want done with their remains, and often they make those decisions at the last minute, which can greatly complicate matters.

After baseball legend Ted Williams died in 2002, his body was to be cremated, but another signed document said he wanted to be frozen in biostasis. His head was removed from his body, the two sections stored in separate freezing tanks, and the head was damaged, while the company said it wasn't paid its full fee. In the end, no one was happy with what happened to him.

We aren't lawyers, and this isn't legal advice, but it's a good idea to challenge the will in court before anyone's head is removed. Consult an attorney who can walk you through your options. To learn more, be sure to read our full guide to will disputes, found right beneath this video.

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