When someone creates an estate plan, they leave behind instructions about their wishes for their property and the care of their dependents. Most estate plans serve their purpose and help guide the process of estate administration when the testator dies.
However, some estate plans end up challenged in probate court. People might initiate litigation because of questions about someone’s mental state when they created their documents. There are also situations in which a challenge against someone’s last wishes is possible even when everyone acknowledges that the testator had testamentary capacity when creating their will.
Beneficiaries of the estate or those who expected to inherit something but may not could potentially challenge an estate plan in probate court in one of the two situations below.
1. A spouse denied their inheritance
A surviving spouse in Indiana has certain basic rights, including statutory inheritance rights. A spouse will be the main beneficiary, other than surviving progeny, when someone dies without an estate plan.
They can also challenge the testamentary documents of their deceased spouse when the inheritance they would receive deviates from the basic spousal rights under Indiana state law. Someone who attempts to disinherit their spouse or leave them a tiny fraction of their estate may fail to do so because their will likely won’t survive a challenge in probate court.
2. A possible beneficiary who claims a mistake occurred
When the testator leaves property for four of their five children or all but one of their grandchildren, that was likely a strategic decision, possibly due to the state of the relationship they have with that family member.
However, attempts to disinherit someone simply by leaving them out of a will may result in that individual challenging the documents. They could claim that their exclusion was a mistake, rather than an intentional act. Testators often mention disinheriting someone by name or leave them a very small item specifically to prevent claims that there was an unintentional omission.
Both those hoping to inherit from an estate and those putting together their estate planning documents need to understand when beneficiaries can initiate probate litigation. Learning more about Indiana probate laws can help those concerned with an estate.