Estates often end up hotly contested in probate court for one main reason: Someone believes that the will doesn’t reflect the testator’s true wishes — usually either because they believe the testator was subjected to undue influence or lacked testamentary capacity at the time the will was drafted.
Some of these same themes often lead adult children and their stepmothers to duke it out with each other in probate court after their mutual loved one’s death.
Reasons disputes emerge among stepfamilies during probate
Data compiled by the media company NextAvenue captures how an estimated 80% of stepmoms and their stepchildren don’t see eye-to-eye with one another. Since women tend to outlive their husbands, it’s usually the stepmother and the stepchildren who end up struggling over the estate.
This bad blood between stepfamilies — coupled with a will that might give the lion’s share of the estate to the surviving spouse — often leaves stepchildren in shock after their natural parent’s death. This often motivates the decedent’s children to contest their father’s will.
The most common reasons that adult children often contest their dad’s will are because they:
- Believe that their stepmother coaxed, threatened or otherwise subjected their father to undue influence so that they’d make decisions to leave behind significant assets to their stepmother instead of them
- Share a difference in opinions from their stepmother about their father’s burial preferences
- Question whether their father was of sound mind to understand what they were directing in their will when they divided things up, including both items of true financial worth and those with largely sentimental value
It can be disappointing to find out that your parent’s will didn’t contain the details that you expected, but that doesn’t necessarily make it contestable. Before you decide your next move, it’s often wise to learn more about will contests and estate disputes.