What Happens if My Parent Has More Than One Will When He or She Dies?

What Happens if My Parent…

Over the course of a person’s life, he or she may have a change of heart about the contents of his or her will, which may lead him or her to execute a new will. These changes might arise for a variety of reasons, such as a significant increase or decrease in assets, dissatisfaction with an existing heir, or a new marriage. In some cases, this can happen several times, which results in the person leaving behind multiple wills at the time of his or her death. Situations like these can trigger the need for an investigation into which will is the right will, before the will is admitted to probate or any distributions of property can occur.

Whenever you execute a new will, you should explicitly revoke your prior will. This means that it should state in your second will that all of your prior wills are revoked and you intend the new will to control the distribution of property following your death. It is not enough to simply tear up or destroy a new will. If a new will doesn’t contain an explicit revocation clause, then it can be much more difficult to determine which will is correct, especially if there are multiple versions and copies of wills found after your death.

In most circumstances, the most recently dated legally valid will is the will that controls the distribution of property, but the most recent will is not automatically the controlling will. For example, if a will has no date, or is improperly executed, then a previous will may control. As a result, will contests often occur when there are multiple wills and a question as to which will is valid; will contests ask a court to determine which will is the testator’s legal will for the purposes of property distribution.

For instance, suppose that your widowed father has a will that leaves all of his estate to his children in equal portions. A few years later, he suddenly marries a much younger woman who has been taking care of him in his home since he became ill. Your father then decides to write a new will so that he can leave all of his property to his new wife, which he does just three days prior to his death. In this situation, you might question whether your father was aware that he was signing a new will, whether he had the capacity to execute a new will, or whether he relied on a false statement or misrepresentation by his new wife as justification for making a new will. All of these questions might very well lead to a will contest.

A will is a central part of estate planning, and it is often the most effective way that you can decide how your assets should be distributed after your death. However, as you can see, determining which version of your loved one’s will is essential to carrying out his or her wishes. We are here to ensure that your will distributes your assets the way that you intended. The Michigan elder law attorneys of Legacy Law Center have helped countless individuals set up individualized estate plans to carry out all of their wishes after death. Contact our office and set up an appointment with one of our experienced elder law attorneys today.

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