When Wills Go Sour – Who Wins and Loses?Ed Olkovich
Halloween is almost here. Let’s look at the scary side of estate planning.
I see enough nightmares in my law office every day.
My scary stories will motivate you to take action. I’ll then show you how to avoid costly money mistakes.
You must know people can contest your will.
Let me tell you what happens when you make a bad will.
Your relatives or friends will go to a lawyer. They want to know how to challenge your will.
I have years of experience contesting bad wills. Here is a story about Stephen and my conversation with him.
Of course, it’s not legal advice but only free information, like all my posts.
Stephen, a thirty-three-year old high school gym teacher, was red with anger. “I want to know if I can contest the will in court. I don’t care what it costs. I lost everything!”
He was furious about his sister, Linda. He then started telling me a true horror story.
- Linda had moved into their mutual uncle’s home.
- The uncle then changed his will to cut Stephen out.
- After their uncle died, Linda refused to speak with her brother.
Stephen told me he could not sleep since he found out what had happened.
His uncle left him one bank account that was empty when he died. His sister had used it all to pay his uncle’s nursing home bill.
Stephen called the estate lawyer. He asked the lawyer, “why on Earth would she get the bulk of my uncle’s estate?” The estate lawyer told him it was confidential and refused to talk with him. Stephen rushed to see me for advice.
Stephen says, “I don’t care what it costs in court. Fix it now!”
Stephen’s words are not a melody to the ears of an experienced estate court litigator.
Lawyers who go to court when wills go sour know the legal issues are complex and success is hard to predict. Experienced estate lawyers know they must be careful with the advice they give.
Judges hate to see estates go down the drain because of legal battles. They can take a mean turn against those they consider responsible, including lawyers.
Remember, at the end of the case, judges decide who wins and loses. That includes who pays the legal bills for the court battle.
Clients, like Stephen, need to weight their options and control their emotions. They are often eager to strike first in what may be a revenge match.
But clients can also come back to haunt lawyers who misled them. This happens if clients do not receive objective advice before the legal costs become astronomical.
I told Stephen, “I will be honest with you, Stephen. I know you’re upset, but that doesn’t mean you should contest the will to get even with your sister. I know you can likely find a lawyer who will follow your wishes and sue everyone. But I always counsel caution before anyone jumps into any lawsuit. That’s especially true if it involves relatives who may never want to speak to you again.”
Next, I’ll tell you the other side of the story. This may be one you have never heard.
See my estate planning guide, my related blog post and my ebook
About Edward Olkovich
Edward Olkovich (BA, LLB, TEP, C.S.) is a nationally recognized author and estate expert. He is a Toronto estate lawyer and Certified Specialist in Estates and Trusts. Edward has practiced law since 1978 and is the author of seven books. Visit his website, mrwills.com, for more free valuable information.