• Charlotte: +704.369.9977
  • Fort Mill: +803.594.4453
Consultation Request
Share

NC and SC Estate Planning and Elder Law Firm

Saturday, April 6, 2019

How To Challenge A Will

In his novel Sycamore Row John Grisham takes us back to Ford County, Mississippi where Jack Brigance, the lawyer made famous in A Time To Kill, has taken on another challenging case. 

A wealthy man name Seth Hubbard has hung himself in a sycamore tree and left almost his entire fortune to his black maid. Hubbard’s children, who thought they would be inheriting their ailing father’s millions, contest the will. They argue Hubbard’s handwritten will should not invalidate his earlier, professionally drafted plan. They suggest the maid must have hoodwinked Hubbard. Or that he was so addled from chemotherapy and painkillers that he must not have been thinking clearly. In the end, a salacious trial is held where we finally learn the secrets of Sycamore Row. 

The book is a real page-turner. And like most of Grisham’s books, the legal aspects of ring true. The arguments Hubbard’s children make as they attempt to have their father’s will invalidated are similar to arguments we have made on behalf of many clients who want to challenge a loved one’s estate plan — invalid execution, undue influence, and lack of capacity. 

Invalid Execution 


The first thing we look at are the documents themselves. Were they drafted properly? Were they signed and witnessed as required by law? 

Both North and South Carolina have strict rules that govern the execution of estate planning documents. (Which is why it is important to work with an experienced estate planning attorney when crafting your own estate plan.) One mistake could invalidate an entire plan. 

For example, wills in both North Carolina and South Carolina must be signed by two different witnesses to be considered valid. If the will is not probably witnessed, that gives us a line of attack. We can also raise questions as to a will’s validity if the only witnesses are people who stand to benefit from the disputed will. 

Undue Influence 


In the book, people suspect Hubbard altered his will in favor of his maid because she had somehow tricked him into doing so, or because they were lovers. Similar suspicions arise in the real world when a relative, friend, trusted advisor, or health care worker is singled out and given more than a spouse or a child. 

We look for evidence that the unexpected beneficiary was exerting pressure on the will-drafter. These claims are taken very seriously because this is a form of elder abuse. Some abusers threaten to withhold care or spill family secrets if they are not named as the primary beneficiary. 

Lack of Capacity 


In both South Carolina and North Carolina, a will can be invalidated if the person making the will lacked the mental capacity to comprehend their actions. 

Incompetence is typically established with medical evidence, or through the testimony of witnesses as to the irrational conduct of the deceased around the time, the will was executed or changed.

Trust Your Gut


If your loved one’s estate plan was a nasty surprise, and you suspect something is not right, trust your gut. Contact an experienced probate attorney to discuss your concerns. 

Archived Posts

2019
2018
December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January
2017
December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January
2016
December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
January
2015
December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January
2014
December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January
2013


Monk Law Firm, PLLC assists clients throughout Charlotte, Rock Hill, Fort Mill and the surrounding areas.



© 2019 Monk Law Firm, PLLC | Disclaimer
1701 First Baxter Crossing, Suite 101, Fort Mill, SC 29708
| Phone: 803-594-4453
13315 Carowinds Blvd., Suite Q, Charlotte, NC 28273
| Phone: 704-369-9977

Estate Planning | Elder Law / Medicaid Planning | Guardianships | Probate / Estate Administration | Special Needs Planning | Veterans Benefits | Business Law | Business Succession Planning

Law Firm Website Design by
Zola Creative