What are my rights?
What are my rights to receive my deceased relative’s assets under a will, trust or other estate planning document if I am not named in the document or was to receive a larger gift under a prior version of the document?
Whether you have rights depends on the validity of document at issue and includes many factors, such as:
- Whether you were a named beneficiary under a prior version of the will, trust or other estate planning document at issue (all such documents are called the “contested document” for purposes of the answer to this question);
- Whether the decedent was competent or subject to fraud, duress or undue influence at the time the contested document was executed;
- Whether the decedent suffered from dementia, cognitive impairment, physical infirmities, altered state of mind or delusion at the time of execution of the contested document;
- Whether the Decedent utilized the services of a new attorney in connection with the preparation and execution of the contested document, particularly if such attorney was recommended by the beneficiaries under the contested document;
- Whether the beneficiaries receiving new or increased gifts under the contested document were active in obtaining the new estate planning document;
- Whether the beneficiaries receiving new or increased gifts under the contested document occupied a position of confidence or trust with the decedent;
- Whether the decedent was isolated from loved ones and family members by the person(s) benefiting most from the change in the contested document;
- Whether the change to the contested document was made shortly before the decedent’s passing;
- Whether the final estate plan under the contested document, departs in either amounts or percentages from prior estate plans;
- Whether the beneficiary under the contested document is a natural and expected recipient of assets at death (for example, it is natural for a parent to make gifts to their children and less natural to make substantial gifts to acquaintances and caregivers).
While the existence of some or all of the above factors may give rise to a claim, the strength of each case depends on its specific facts.