One of the areas in which we have successfully helped people in the past is in challenging a will or trust. To do so you have to show that the will or trust is invalid or that the person who authorized it didn’t know what they were doing when they signed off on it.
To show a will isn’t valid you would need to show that some requirement was violated. For example, a will in Illinois must be witnessed by two people that aren’t going to receive anything in the will. In addition, the witnesses have to see the person making the will actually sign it or have that person confirm it is their signature. These mistakes happen all the time. Another way of showing a will isn’t valid that is not as common, but does happen is showing that the will itself is a fraud. In other words, the person who died didn’t actually make the will or their signature was forged. We have successfully helped people find lawyers for every one of these situations.
Other times a will or trust is prepared correctly and signed by the person who dies, but the will or trust can be challenged because we can prove that the person who signed didn’t know what they were doing. The most common example is when someone signs a will while in the hospital right before they pass away. When someone is drugged up with morphine or other medications that alter their judgment a strong argument can be made that they don’t know what they are doing. Another common challenge that we have helped with is contesting a will that was made by someone with severe dementia or Alzheimer’s. The key element to winning is proving that they could not have had the mental capacity to understand what they were doing when they signed. In recent months we have had successful will and trust challenges in Chicago, Peoria, Lake County, Wheaton and Springfield on similar grounds.
We get a lot of calls from people who want to challenge a will or trust because someone had “undue influence” on the person that died. That isn’t enough to make a successful challenge. You have to show that the person who passed didn’t know what they were doing.
Finally, please know that if your Dad dies and leaves everything to a friend (or a neighbor, charity, other siblings except for you, etc.) and the will he prepared was valid, then you do not have grounds to challenge. Being a child of someone only gives you grounds to their assets if there is no will. In addition, just because you took care of a sick parent or had power of attorney while they were alive does not trump anything in a will or trust.
As far as costs go for hiring an attorney to challenge a will or trust in Illinois, it depends on how much is at stake and what the chances of success are. If there is a larger estate or it appears that we can show the will or trust is not valid then we likely can help you find a lawyer on a contingency basis. This means that they only get paid if they are successful for you and that they receive a percentage of what they recover for you. Otherwise you will have to pay an attorney by the hour win or lose.
Does any of this sound confusing? It can be because challenging a will or trust is usually open to the interpretation of a judge. If you have questions about challenging a will or trust or want an attorney referral to an experienced lawyer please contact us at (312) 346-5320 or (800) 517-1614.
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