One purpose of probate is to ensure that the will according to which property is distributed is valid, that it accurately represents the intentions of the person who left it behind. There is, of course, always the possibility that family may challenge the validity of a will. Typical grounds on which wills are challenged include undue influence, insane delusion and fraud.
The family of a deceased U.S. copper heiress is currently challenging the will she left behind. The will reportedly excluded the family from her $400 million estate and left most of it to a charitable foundation overseen by her accountant and attorney, each of whom received $500,000 under the will. Needless to say, the family isn’t happy and is challenging the validity of the will. On Monday, a new will was presented in court documents, and it appears to have been signed six weeks prior to the previous one.
According to sources, the woman died back in May at the age of 104, after having spent decades living in hospitals in obscurity. She apparently used pseudonyms to hide her identity.
The holding’s of the woman’s estate include a beachfront estate in Santa Barbara, California, several Manhattan apartments, a museum filled with priceless paintings, and a $20 million compound in New Canaan Connecticut.
According to the family’s attorney, the deceased woman’s accountant and attorney exercised undue influence upon her and manipulated her into altering her will. Both of them have denied any such wrongdoing.
It isn’t clear how this case will turn out, but one thing worth noting is that good estate planning goes a long way in reducing the likelihood of having a will contest down the road.
Source: Reuters, “Family of reclusive U.S. copper heiress disputes will,” Chris Francescani, November 29, 2011.