Should You Contest a Will?
Should you contest a will? The answer lies in whether you feel you should have received an inheritance from a loved one who promised they would leave you something in a will.
I’m Reed Bloodworth, the managing partner of Bloodworth Law. Our office is at 801 N. Magnolia Avenue, Suite 216, in downtown Orlando, Florida. Our second office is at 332 Ave. B SW, in Winter Haven, Florida.
Bloodworth Law handles probate and estate litigation for plaintiffs and defendants in Orange County, Seminole County, Volusia County, and many other counties and courts throughout Florida.
If you were surprised that you were not named as a beneficiary in a will, or someone else received what you thought or felt that you should have received in probate, the decision is yours as to whether you should contest a will. However, if a potential beneficiary or plaintiff fails to contest a will within the set timeline and in accordance with Florida law, those claims are forever barred.
What Should You Do First?
You must act immediately on your claims. The first thing you should do is meet with an attorney who handles probate litigation and who can properly contest the will. Anyone, including a family member, a friend, a creditor, or even a non-profit organization, can contest a will. If someone believes that they were left out of a will as a beneficiary, or feels that someone else inadvertently or intentionally received the estate’s assets, then that person can contest the will in probate court.
Probate litigation is legal action taken to dispute benefits or actions surrounding a will during the probate process in Florida probate court.
At Bloodworth Law, the most common probate litigation we see usually involves a claim by a beneficiary, or would-be beneficiary, filed against a personal representative, or another beneficiary, because they didn’t receive a specified benefit or inheritance from a will. A beneficiary is a person who receives money, assets or property from a will.
On the other side of will contests, we represent defendants accused of illegally receiving benefits from a will or taking assets during probate. Defendants include executors, personal representatives, and other beneficiaries.
Let’s get back to the question: Should you contest a will?
Ultimately, it comes down to a decision you should make with your attorney, after analyzing the available evidence. You should discuss with your attorney how you both see the litigation play out. If you believe something is improper with the will, then that’s the moment to act.
Red Flags to Look For
Here are a few common red flags to look for when deciding whether to challenge a will:
- The decedent’s will is amended or recreated shortly before his or her death.
- Property is transferred away from the decedent shortly before death.
- The decedent’s banking, investment, or retirement accounts were amended to add a co-owner or different payable upon death beneficiary.
While an effective way to avoid the necessity of banking and investment accounts of passing through probate, sudden changes before death can raise questions.
All of these red flags can give rise to accusations of undue influence, lack of capacity, or tortious interference with an inheritance. However, the flip side of this is that there are many cases where there is no foul play, and a personal representative can be defended for doing as instructed by a decedent’s will.
Again, I’m Florida attorney Reed Bloodworth, managing partner of Bloodworth Law. Talk with an experienced probate lawyer if you believe you should be a beneficiary in a will or if you need to defend yourself against claims of wrongdoing.
If any of these situations come up and you’re questioning what to do, give me a call. Let’s talk about how Bloodworth Law can help you or your family.