Two of the main reasons that people invest the time and effort into creating estate plans are to maintain control over what happens to their property and to minimize probate expenses and delays. Unfortunately, if someone in your family challenges your estate plan or will, your estate could wind up in probate court anyway.
Typically, people need valid grounds to challenge someone’s last wishes. Common grounds include suspicions of fraud or undue influence, as well as claims that the testator lacked the capacity to create a legally binding document when they drafted their will or estate plan.
What happens if the Colorado probate courts side with the person challenging your last wishes?
A successful challenge will compel the courts to set aside your documents
Your estate planning documents designate a representative, executor or trustee and instruct them about how to handle your property. The best estate plans are thorough and accurately reflect someone’s financial and familial circumstances. Frequent updates to an estate plan can also be beneficial for someone facing a challenge.
Typically, after a successful challenge, the courts will set aside the last will or estate planning documents implicated by the challenge. However, if someone has frequently updated their estate plan, there may be a previous version of those documents.
The courts may revert to an earlier version of the documents in cases where claims about the lack of testamentary capacity or possible undue influence make the most recent version of the documents suspect. Otherwise, the courts will treat the estate as though someone died without a will and apply Colorado intestate succession laws to the assets.
A successful challenge will cost the estate quite a bit
It may take several weeks and thousands of dollars worth of court costs and attorney fees to resolve a dispute about the validity of an estate plan. If the courts agree with the person challenging your documents, your estate may have to pay those costs. A successful challenge could substantially diminish what you can leave behind for the people you love. You may want to prevent a challenge by adding a trust or even a no-contest clause to your documents.
Recognizing the risks of a challenge against your estate plan could motivate you to create thorough documents and update them regularly as your family and life change.