When people are upset over an inheritance their first instinct is often to contest the will. However, will contests have high emotional and financial costs and should not be undertaken lightly.
The Rochester Business Journal recently published an interesting article about the costs and difficulty of challenging a will in an article entitled "Choosing to contest a will costs financial, emotional tolls."
As the article explains, contesting a will almost always create rifts in families. These rifts are similar to the emotional impact of getting a divorce. Hurt feelings between relatives take a long time to heal and many times they never do.
The article also explains why challenging a will is so financially costly.
To be successful with a challenge it must be proven that the testator was not mentally competent to create the will.
This is very difficult for two reasons. First, it does not take much to be competent enough to make a will. The person does not need to be generally competent to do everything else in life. When it comes to testamentary capacity he or she just needs to be lucid enough at the time to understand and approve of the will. Secondly, in almost all circumstances the person who wishes to contest a will was not present when the will was signed. Consequently, this makes it impossible for the person to have direct knowledge regarding whether the testator was lucid and mentally incompetent.
This does not mean that wills should never be challenged. It just means that anyone thinking about contesting a will should proceed with caution and seek the services of an experienced estate attorney.
A will contest should only be initiated after the attorney has time to review the case and assess the likelihood that the will contest will be successful.
Reference: Rochester Business Journal (Jan. 8, 2016) "Choosing to contest a will costs financial, emotional tolls."