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What Happens When There Are Multiple Versions of a Will?

| Feb 21, 2023 | Probate Litigation

When a family member or loved one passes away, your goal is to honor their wishes if they have left a will. Sometimes, things can become confusing if you find out there are multiple versions of their will. This is not uncommon, but it may take more time to sort out and determine what exactly your loved one desired after they passed.

The Maryville estate planning attorneys at Shepherd & Long, PC will make sure you have the most up-to-date and complete version of a will through the probate litigation process. By working with a trusted and experienced lawyer, you will be able to locate the proper and valid version of your loved one’s will that explains everything they left behind.

Probate litigation for multiple wills

When there are multiple versions of a will found, family members and loved ones may need to go through a process called probate litigation. This process allows family members to contest a will, dispute a trust, and secure property that they believe was improperly taken. Even though the probate litigation process can be long and frustrating, it is important to make sure you are respecting your loved one’s desires and wishes.

Probate can be helpful to families as it is a way for the court to locate the assets listed in the wills, establish any tax payments necessary, and distribute the assets equally among the individuals listed in the valid will. There may be disagreements among family members, but attorneys will ensure that the decedent’s wishes are honored properly.

The following are a few examples of issues handled during the probate litigation process:

  • Lawsuits against the interpretation of a will or trust
  • Challenging of the validity of the will
  • Contests over who is the guardian
  • Modifications to the trust
  • Lawsuits to throw out a trust
  • Lawsuits against executors or trustees who do not act in accordance with the will

Often, probate litigation is a result of dysfunctional families, sibling rivalry, and second or third marriages. When people cannot agree on what is stated in a will or believe that the will left behind is wrong, a Maryville probate attorney can help them solve this matter.

When can you contest a will if you think there’s another?

It is important to know that you cannot contest a will just because you do not like what it says. When the individual created their will, they knew that it was a legally binding document that would be followed through after they died.

But if you know there’s another version of the will somewhere – or maybe sitting right in front of you – then you would have cause to contest it.

You can also contest a will when:

  • The will did not follow Tennessee law. For example, if the individual did not have two witnesses in the room at the time of developing the will, or if the document was never properly signed.
  • There is concern about the individual’s mental capacity to sign a will. If it can be proven that the individual did not properly understand their assets or who would inherit them, you may be able to contest the will.
  • The individual was influenced and pressured into making a will before death. This may be difficult to prove but not impossible.
  • The will was fraudulent. This means that the individual was tricked into believing that a document was something else, such as a deed or power of attorney, and signed it. You will most likely need several witnesses that can agree that this is what happened.
  • There is a more up-to-date and recent version of the individual’s will.

Keep in mind that when an individual creates a newer, more recent version of a will, their previous wills are usually automatically revoked. Most wills state that all previous versions of a will are revoked. Even if your loved one’s will does not state this, it is typically assumed by the law.

How can you contest a will?

If you think that you have the proof and standing to contest a will, you begin the process by filing a claim. In Tennessee, you have two years to contest a will, and the clock begins ticking as soon as the will is admitted to probate.

Next, find a Maryville lawyer who has experience and knowledge in estate planning and probate litigation. They will help you understand what is going on with your case as well as provide advice on your most favorable legal options. A lawyer will also be able to let you know if you do not have the proper proof to contest a will, which could save you a lot of time and money.

If your attorney believes that you do have a viable claim, they will submit your claim in the probate court and prepare a strong case regarding your loved one’s will. If the court rules in your favor, you will receive the assets that you claimed.

The bottom line on multiple wills

It is not uncommon for people to rewrite or revise multiple wills based on life changes, such as divorce, marriage, and children. If your loved one’s will does not mention that other previous wills are revoked, or if you do not believe that the most recent will is valid, you will need to demonstrate reasonable doubt. Your lawyer will take your case to court, and a judge will determine which will is valid and correct. The court will take into consideration all arguments, and your probate attorney will advocate for you and your position.

When an individual leaves a will, it is not unusual for conflicts to arise, especially when some family members feel left out or blindsided. Will contests are a complicated subject among families, which is why our probate litigation attorney, Elizabeth Maxey Long, is glad to assist you with the process at Shepherd & Long, PC. She offers patience, understanding, and compassion when it comes to these cases and will help you resolve any type of disagreement. Call our office or submit our contact form, and let us help you honor your loved one and their assets left behind.