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I have a strange situation and I can't give a lot of details on this forum, but can answer questions through PM if you want.   I am going to give an "as close to realistic" scenario as I can.

Let's just say there is a relative who is still of very solid mind/body, who had a will, leaving most of his money to his daughter and step-daughters.   He has had a bad falling out with his bio daughter and chose to take her out of the will.   However, he opted to add a niece into the will in the daughter's place as he has grown very close to the niece.

He did not tell the daughter.   They have not spoken in a while.   

Could the daughter contest the will and make it hard on everyone?

 

DO NOT QUOTE THE BELOW INFO, I will remove later.

 I am the niece.   I didn't ask for this, didn't expect anything, and honestly feel a little uncomfortable about it.   I have no idea what kind of money he has, he may not have much at all, but it seems wrong to me to leave your daughter out.    This daughter is the same one who I have tried helping due to homelessness.   Her family won't take her in for many reasons that I am slowly finding out.   So, I do get why he doesn't want her to have the money.

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I have no idea about the legal part of it, but I really hope that he is allowed to do what he wants to do with his money.   I honestly would be so mad if he was not able to do what he wants to do.  I think he has every right to leave his money to whomever he wants to.  

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4 minutes ago, DawnM said:

 

Could the daughter contest the will and make it hard on everyone?

I think the simple answer is yes and yes.

IANAL, but I think anyone with a close relationship to a decedent would be considered to have standing to contest a will. That doesn't mean she'd win, though.

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I'm the PP of the other thread.  As I understand it, from our situation, is that people can contest wills for all sorts of reasons, and make things hard for people regardless of whether their reason makes sense, or has any merit whatsoever in the eyes of the law.   The other thing that seems clear, from our situation, is that there are unscrupulous lawyers who are happy to represent people in cases that make no sense and have no merit.  

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The way to get around the daughter being able to contest the new will is to make sure she is mentioned in the new will.  He doesn't have to leave her anything - just state the fact he hasn't forgotten his relationship with her.  (or even leave her a very token amount. spelled out to - one dollar, so she can't argue that $1. was really supposed to be $100,000.) Then she can't argue she's been overlooked.  (it will make lawyer's less willing to spend their time with her.  bottom line is lawyers won't take a case if they think they won't get paid.)

Edited by gardenmom5
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I can understand your feeling bad, but when you mentioned who his daughter is, it seems he has good reason to not leave an inheritance to her. Not knowing the other circumstances, he may feel he has already given her more than her share by trying to help her out many times. He may just not want to waste the money by giving it to someone who will use it unwisely. Etc. I'm not sure but what I would make the same choice in similar circumstances.

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6 minutes ago, BaseballandHockey said:

I'm the PP of the other thread.  As I understand it, from our situation, is that people can contest wills for all sorts of reasons, and make things hard for people regardless of whether their reason makes sense, or has any merit whatsoever in the eyes of the law.   The other thing that seems clear, from our situation, is that there are unscrupulous lawyers who are happy to represent people in cases that make no sense and have no merit.  

Even so - no unscrupulous lawyer will take a case if they don't expect to get paid.

Due to one sibling's behavior when my grandmother died (she didn't leave a will.  she thought my grandfather's will was her will.  um, no.)  I demanded a super nasty clause in my mom's trust/will.   Mom didn't want to put it in - but I pointed out I would be the one dealing with my siblings after she died.  The super nasty clause was basically anyone contesting it would be cut off along with their heirs.

My brother didn't think 1/3 share between three siblings was equitable and was constantly threatening me for more.  Got military legal aid to send us threatening letters.  We gave him a copy of the trust/will and I'm sure he showed it to lawyers.  (he was in the middle of a nasty divorce, so he was regularly dealing with lawyers.)  The trust/will was clear.  No lawyer would take his case because the didn't expect to win, or get paid.  

The one regret I have is the trust/will wasn't specific about how much (%) the trustee/executor would receive.  I was afraid for dh to take anything for fear my brother would find something new to scream about when he was already being so stressful.  It was very unjust to the amount of work dh did for my mother before and after her death.  My brother is no longer allowed in my house - the last time he was here, he got on dh's computer and deleted files pertaining to our mother's estate.  Dh's background is finance, and his back-ups have back-ups so nothing was actually lost.

(my brother is also a narcissist.)

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Oh -make sure the daughter does not have any keys to his house, car, safety deposit box, etc.

 That her name isn't on any CD, bank account, etc. That he doesn't want her name on.

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34 minutes ago, gardenmom5 said:

Even so - no unscrupulous lawyer will take a case if they don't expect to get paid.

 

This is probably true.  In our case, the dispute is over whether the person with the unscrupulous lawyer gets 1/2 or all of the inheritance, so the lawyer anticipates that he'll be paid either way.

 

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Before reading other replies, I would guess that he recognizes you as both a good steward and a generous soul. The funds, whatever they may be, would be put to good use by you, but squandered by the wayward daughter. He probably trusts that you would use it to aid her circumstances as much as you find possible and wise. 
 

As far as her contesting it, one has to have the wherewithal to secure legal services for that kind of thing. A proper legal will would make that challenging for her. 
 

<ok backing up to read what I missed before writing this>

Edited by Seasider too
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He should include the daughter in the will, with a small amount that would still be enough that she may not want to risk losing it, e.g. "To my daughter Jane Smith, I leave the sum of $1000 as a gesture of good will [followed by a sentence or two clearly explaining his reasons for doing this, and that this is intentional and not an oversight]." Then include a clause saying that any beneficiary who contests the will shall automatically forfeit their share. 

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4 minutes ago, Corraleno said:

He should include the daughter in the will, with a small amount that would still be enough that she may not want to risk losing it, e.g. "To my daughter Jane Smith, I leave the sum of $1000 as a gesture of good will [followed by a sentence or two clearly explaining his reasons for doing this, and that this is intentional and not an oversight]." Then include a clause saying that any beneficiary who contests the will shall automatically forfeit their share. 

This makes sense but perhaps a tiny percentage is safer.  If there isn't much left $1,000 can suddenly be more than others get.

 

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Adult children are not entitled to an inheritance, but that does not mean they won't contest a will they see as unfair.  Whether or not they ultimately win, hard feelings can endure for a long time  This is a situation where professional advice is needed.  

If you have any influence over this relative insist that he consult with an attorney. He needs the legal language of an attorney-drafted will.   Depending on his assets, the attorney may suggest that a sum be put in trust for the daughter.  Do not agree to be the daughter's trustee.  If there is sufficient money for a trust, there is sufficient funding to pay a neutral third party to administer it.  

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10 minutes ago, happi duck said:

This makes sense but perhaps a tiny percentage is safer.  If there isn't much left $1,000 can suddenly be more than others get.

I'm assuming there are enough assets that the will would be worth contesting if the daughter was cut out. If the shares of the named beneficiaries are less than $1000, then there's no point in contesting the will and no lawyer would take it. And honestly at that level, there's no point in cutting the daughter out and risking having to go through a big drawn-out legal mess — just give her her share and let her blow it if that's what she wants.

But if there is a house, investments, savings, etc., then they need to pick a number that is at least big enough that the daughter wont risk losing it by contesting. If she gets $100 and everyone else gets $10,000, then she really has nothing to lose by contesting — she could do it just to be spiteful and punish the other beneficiaries. If she gets $1000, and knows there's like a 99.9% probability that she will lose that money by contesting, then she may just take her money and walk away, no matter how mad she is. 

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In this case Dawn, I would not feel one bit bad to accept what he wills to you.  His daughter has made her own bed. 

I know she could contest it and if she does you will have the option of settling with her to keep her from dragging you through the mud and court if she found a lawyer to take her case.  I would be surprised if she did though.  Unless she cleans up her act really well first.

My former MIL married a very very wealthy man after my FIL died.  He was a widower from a very long marriage and they had 4 sons.  Somehow MIL got him to change his will to cut his sons completely out.  She completely alienated them from their dad.  It was sickening.  Anyway, after her husband died his sons did sue her for undue influence.  The lawyers were gathering some seriously cool witnesses that would have shown her pattern over a 50 year period. At some point she settled with them.  She was left quite well off but she had to give back a bunch of money to his sons.

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1 hour ago, gardenmom5 said:

The way to get around the daughter being able to contest the new will is to make sure she is mentioned in the new will.  He doesn't have to leave her anything - just state the fact he hasn't forgotten his relationship with her.

As I've been driving around,  I had a thought. 

The will can state he's given her generous financial gifts during his lifetime. 

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48 minutes ago, Sherry in OH said:

Adult children are not entitled to an inheritance, but that does not mean they won't contest a will they see as unfair.  Whether or not they ultimately win, hard feelings can endure for a long time  This is a situation where professional advice is needed.  

If you have any influence over this relative insist that he consult with an attorney. He needs the legal language of an attorney-drafted will.   Depending on his assets, the attorney may suggest that a sum be put in trust for the daughter.  Do not agree to be the daughter's trustee.  If there is sufficient money for a trust, there is sufficient funding to pay a neutral third party to administer it.  

This is true, and one estate lawyer we dealt with had a case where the two factions fought until most of the estate went to the legal bills, neither got very much.  (it wasn't very big to start with.) That's where animosity can get you.  Even the lawyer thought it was really sad.
But she's homeless - and already feels entitled to having family help her without having to actually do anything for herself.  Nothing you do will change that.  Her father hasn't been able to change that.

An estate lawyer who knows what they're doing (not all do) can prevent a host of problems by having a well -written will.  (one reason i don't like the "kits".)

1 hour ago, Corraleno said:

He should include the daughter in the will, with a small amount that would still be enough that she may not want to risk losing it, e.g. "To my daughter Jane Smith, I leave the sum of $1000 as a gesture of good will [followed by a sentence or two clearly explaining his reasons for doing this, and that this is intentional and not an oversight]." Then include a clause saying that any beneficiary who contests the will shall automatically forfeit their share. 

Much as I was thrilled to have a very nasty version of this in my mom's trust/will - I've had other lawyers tell me it can't be enforced.  So, I don't know.

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Friends of mine recently did their will in which they disinherited one child.  Their lawyer inserted a phrase like this:  “Being mindful of my child firstname lastname, I leave my entire estate in equal shares to my children Susie, Charlie, and Mary.”

Anne

 

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I hate situations like this. Not because I don’t think people should bequeath their assets as they see fit but because failing to inform potential heirs of your choices before your death is a cowardly thing to do. It always leaves a really bad taste in the mouth of the surviving people who have to enforce the terms and/or be on the receiving end of the rejection. Leave a codicil with an explanation. Make a call before you croak. Send a postcard with no return address. Something.

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While I am a lawyer, I am not your lawyer. This is not legal advice. 
 

This varies by state. In my state, he is perfectly free to do this. Adult Children can be entirely disinherited. The will should be explicit that she wasn’t forgotten and giving a token amount is a nightmare (how can the executor get a receipt for the $1??). Of course, she can challenge the will. Anyone CAN challenge a will, but that doesn’t mean she’ll be successful. Also, in my state, if he doesn’t have a surviving spouse, she’d be entitled to a very small “exemption” amount. She’d have to file for that. Then the rest would go according to his will. 

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3 hours ago, gardenmom5 said:

The way to get around the daughter being able to contest the new will is to make sure she is mentioned in the new will.  He doesn't have to leave her anything - just state the fact he hasn't forgotten his relationship with her.  (or even leave her a very token amount. spelled out to - one dollar, so she can't argue that $1. was really supposed to be $100,000.) Then she can't argue she's been overlooked.  (it will make lawyer's less willing to spend their time with her.  bottom line is lawyers won't take a case if they think they won't get paid.)

This is true. My husband has to keep me out of the Will. We’ve had our Will done four times. The third time was to write me out. I’d been diagnosed and if he preceded me in death, and I inherited everything, my disease wold gobble up money meant to support the kids to adulthood. We initially quote me out completely. The lawyer said it was important to say, essentially, I’ve considered my wife in this matter and I choose to divide money in this way.  That way it was crystal clear he has done it with thought and consideration. (Late we put me in, realizing I’d be allowed to have the house and need to have access to sell it if I choose to move to a more convenient location and we allowed me 20%.) But yes, this would be a great way to be clear- I thought of her and yes, I intentionally did it. 

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This is all very interesting.  My mother died almost 17 months ago.  She was widowed and I'm an only child.  We were estranged for many years.  I didn't expect to get anything and didn't, but often wondered what happened to her estate.  She didn't leave anything to my children either (her only grandchildren).  We could have paid to see the will (I guess it's a public record?), but I didn't want to bother since I feared it would just cause more hard feelings.  The only thing I really wanted were her family photos.  I don't know anyone else who would have wanted them and I would have loved to have them - I only have a few pictures from my childhood and of my deceased father.  I never even thought to contest the will, but I'm certain that she made sure I wouldn't get anything anyway.  

 

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28 minutes ago, Kassia said:

This is all very interesting.  My mother died almost 17 months ago.  She was widowed and I'm an only child.  We were estranged for many years.  I didn't expect to get anything and didn't, but often wondered what happened to her estate.  She didn't leave anything to my children either (her only grandchildren).  We could have paid to see the will (I guess it's a public record?), but I didn't want to bother since I feared it would just cause more hard feelings.  The only thing I really wanted were her family photos.  I don't know anyone else who would have wanted them and I would have loved to have them - I only have a few pictures from my childhood and of my deceased father.  I never even thought to contest the will, but I'm certain that she made sure I wouldn't get anything anyway.  

 

That makes me super sad.  I am sorry.  

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45 minutes ago, Kassia said:

This is all very interesting.  My mother died almost 17 months ago.  She was widowed and I'm an only child.  We were estranged for many years.  I didn't expect to get anything and didn't, but often wondered what happened to her estate.  She didn't leave anything to my children either (her only grandchildren).  We could have paid to see the will (I guess it's a public record?), but I didn't want to bother since I feared it would just cause more hard feelings.  The only thing I really wanted were her family photos.  I don't know anyone else who would have wanted them and I would have loved to have them - I only have a few pictures from my childhood and of my deceased father.  I never even thought to contest the will, but I'm certain that she made sure I wouldn't get anything anyway.  

 

I’m very sorry. If her will was probated, then you could get a copy. You could try calling the probate court where she lived just to see who was granted administrative rights. You never know - they may be holding on to pictures that they’d be willing to provide. 

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20 minutes ago, lauraw4321 said:

I’m very sorry. If her will was probated, then you could get a copy. You could try calling the probate court where she lived just to see who was granted administrative rights. You never know - they may be holding on to pictures that they’d be willing to provide. 

Thanks.  DH looked into it after she died and was told we could get a copy of the will for $5, but I really wanted to let it all go and not know who or what she left her estate to (she owned a condo and I know she had money).  I had just hoped that she left instructions for someone to send me or my kids the pictures.  She actually tried bribing my oldest son a few times with the pictures - telling him she had them and would give them to him if he did what she wanted, so she knew I wanted them.  Her condo went up for sale very soon after she died and I saw the listing online and it was all cleared out - I don't know what happened to all of her possessions.  

 

 

38 minutes ago, Scarlett said:

That makes me super sad.  I am sorry.  

Thank you.  

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Some states allow children of decedent to claim an elective share, so, yes, she can make potentially make trouble if she is in applicable state and is familiar with the law herself or seeks legal advice.

Her father can pass an inheritance to her via trust if she is a spendthrift or if she receives government benefits that are asset or income based.

One of my clients had a falling out with one of her grandchildren and disinherited him in both her will and in a life insurance trust.  Subsequently they reconciled but she failed to update terms of will and insurance trust.  Thus, when she died, he was denied his share of her estate.

FTR I strongly disagree with disinheriting children or treating them unequally in legal documents.

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