When someone passes away, the local Probate Court often admits a Will to probate. Most states require you to challenge the Will within a few months. Indiana law requires you to file a Will Contest within three (3) months after the order admitting it to probate. This is a very short time frame in which to hire an attorney and file the necessary paperwork with the Court.
The most common reason to challenge a Will is the decedent did not appear to be of sound mind to sign any legal document. Perhaps he or she got confused about family member names, or did not understand the nature and extent of his or her property. Memory problems, confusion, repeating phrases, not following along in conversations, disorientation, or a medical problem such as dementia – all are common signs.
In addition, Wills are formal documents, and sometimes the required formalities are not properly followed. This is often referred to as undue execution. Indiana law requires two witnesses who actually see the decedent sign. Indiana law requires the actual original filed with the Clerk – which is sometimes lost and presumed revoked.
Undue influence is another reason to set aside a Will. Perhaps one of the beneficiaries helped draft the document, or set up a meeting with the drafting attorney, or even more disturbing, sat in the room when all of this went on. Once a new Will is signed, the “undue influencer” often isolates the decedent and prevents others from meeting or talking with a loved one.
The rise in divorce and remarriage has given our society many more blended families, stepchildren, and step-parents. Another societal change involves how we care for the elderly, who may have the choice of a nursing home or in-home care. With children not handling day-to-day responsibility, caretakers are inheriting more than ever. The ethical standards of fiduciaries also appear to be on the decline. Witnesses to wills inherit. Powers of Attorney or Attorneys In Fact control everything. Even licensed attorneys are drafting documents that benefit themselves or members of their family.
All of these changes to family structure have led to more frequent conflicts over inheritances. If a Will Contest involves undue influence, persons involved in making the Will perhaps manipulated the decedent. Disputes over the provisions of a Will also arise when the decedent was mentally or emotionally unbalanced. Whatever the origin of the dispute, the litigation required for resolving a Will Contest is difficult and complicated, demanding a capable and experienced attorney.
Because Will Contests are so complicated, few attorneys practice in this area – only about a dozen in Indiana. Mr. Shirley is one of the most well-known. His clients are those that wish to contest Wills, and also those who wish to have an attorney defend the estate against a Will Contest.
To learn how Mr. Shirley can help you in any matter involving a Will Contest, contact his Indianapolis law office today.