When Should You Contest Your Parent’s Charitable Will Bequest?
Each year, people donate roughly $286 billion to charity, but unfortunately, some of these donations might not be as legitimate as they might seem. Every now and then, a child is concerned to find out their parents randomly left a lot of money to a sketchy charitable institution. Though it can be hard to contest a will leaving money to charity, there are a few situations where this might be necessary.
Your Parent Was Not in Their Right Mind When They Gave the Bequest
New Jersey requires all people writing a will to be of sound mind. This means they need to be sober, healthy, and reasonably clear-minded. If your parent was diagnosed with dementia, suddenly made an odd decision, and changed their will, then the will might not be valid. To prove that your parent was not in their right mind, you might need to present medical evidence or witness testimony of other bizarre behavior when the will was written.
You Are Concerned Your Parent Was Unduly Influenced
Another reason to invalidate a charitable bequest is if you think your parent was coerced into making this decision. Undue influence occurs when your parent is vulnerable due to age or impairment and someone else in a position of power pressures them. For example, consider a situation with a bedbound parent and a nurse responsible for giving them medication. If the parent suddenly left all their money to the nurse’s favorite charity, you might want to suspect undue influence and challenge your parent’s will.
You Suspect the Will Is Fraudulent
Though rare, some people may try to forge a will. This can include drafting an entire fake will, changing the name of a beneficiary, or altering the amount left to a beneficiary. Abnormal handwriting, odd smudges on the document, or a lack of a proper signature can all be warning signs of fraud. If you have cause to expect fraud, then you may need to both contest the will and open a criminal case. Make sure to consult with an estate planning litigation lawyer as soon as possible if you are concerned about fraud.
You Have Reason to Believe There Is a More Recent Will Without the Donation
It is also possible to contest a will if the will appears to be outdated. For example, if your parent temporarily disinherited you but then renewed the relationship, you might want to check for a new will. This method of contesting the will only works if you can present a newer copy of the will that does not include the charitable donation. Often, this type of will happens when a person left a brief handwritten update but could not consult with their lawyer to add the change to the formal will. The court will need to determine if the update is valid enough to change the existing document.
There Is Some Other Sort of Irregularity in Your Parent’s Will
To be a legal will in New Jersey, a document needs to be a handwritten or typed paper document that was written on behalf of an individual with a sound mind. The document must be signed by your parent in front of two witnesses, and these two witnesses must sign the will within a reasonable amount of time. Any sort of irregularity in this process can be enough to invalidate your parent’s will.
As you can see, whether you can contest the will really just depends on your circumstances. If there were any irregularities in how your parent left the money to charity, it is a good idea to speak to an estate planning litigation lawyer. The Knee Law Firm is happy to help if you have any questions about contesting a will. We can also assist with things like setting up trust funds or drafting power of attorney documents. Learn more about our Hackenstack estate planning services now by calling 201-996-1200 or by filling out our contact form.