Estate planning can not only prevent family conflicts, but it can prevent loved ones from having to make painful healthcare decisions as well.
In accordance with Missouri probate laws, interested parties to a last will and testament can legally dispute its validity if they file a formal lawsuit. An heir can contest a will if they have been left out of a will or is they are left less inheritance under a will than they would be entitled to receive if there had not been a will. The time limit to contest a will in Missouri is within six months “after the date of the probate or rejection by the probate division, or within six months after the first publication of notice granting of letters on the estate of the decedent, whichever is later.” It is important for individuals to seek legal counsel to set up estate planning documents to protect their assets or arrange for care of themselves and loved ones when they are no longer able to. A Kansas City estate planning lawyer may preemptively identify all areas of a will that could be contested and act against them. Common reasons for contesting a will include:
- Lack of testamentary capacity which is the legal term used to describe a person’s legal ability to make or alter a valid will. Issues of testamentary capacity arise when interested parties claim that the testator did not understand what was happening because they did not understand: they were signing a will; what property was included in the will; who would be receiving the property; or the inability to understand any part of the document in cases of Alzheimer’s for example.
- Undue influence if someone is pressuring the will maker and inappropriately swaying their decisions. Undue influence is evaluated by examining if the testator made a will different than they normally would have. Undue influence in estate planning can be difficult to prove because the will maker is often unavailable to be in court answering questions concerning influences during the will-making process
- Due execution includes specific steps and formalities that must occur under Missouri law and if they are not followed, lack of due execution is a reason to contest a will in Missouri. Lack of witnesses or a missing signature are examples of missed steps in the will execution process.
Importance of estate planning
Estate planning can not only prevent family conflicts, but it can prevent loved ones from having to make painful healthcare decisions as well. When an individual has worked hard to acquire assets including real estate, they want to make certain these assets are utilized in the best interests of surviving loved ones upon their death. A Missouri estate planning lawyer will review documents when estate planning is initiated to ascertain any loopholes that individuals would be able to use to contest a will going through probate. Closing out Missouri estates can be time-consuming and dragged out, depending upon the nature of the assets left to distribute and instances of beneficiaries contesting a will, requiring the service of an estate planning lawyer.
A tax lawyer will be able to apprise beneficiaries of the tax liabilities associated with any type of asset they receive during estate settlements. Experienced lawyers who understand Missouri state and federal laws that will impact administration of a will can guide interested parties as they draft legally binding estate planning documents.