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Can You Cancel a Will?

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I need help and don't know what lawyer I need. I know Forgery, Fraud, Incapacity of the Signer and Undue Influence was part of a plan to get at 91 year old with no family to sign a new will. She had a hearing birth defect, and could not see do to needing cataracts removed and glasses. Her shady handy-man somehow became her POA. I have less than a year to prove, and I have tons of proof. Please direct me in the state of PA where to seek help - what type of lawyer??? This is a criminal offense. Please advise asap. Thank you. hal

All wills are subject to legal challenge at the time of the decedent's death. A well constructed will can survive a legal challenge. The greatest challenges come from questions of capacity...were you capable of making a reasoned, consistent, and independent determination of your wishes? Were you subject to undo influence?
These are questions that come out when sudden changes are made that exclude other family members previously included, or add new heirs that are not relatives, or suddenly leave everything to a charity. If a major change is being made in a will, it is helpful to also include a letter of intent...it demonstrates your reasons behind the change...the letter reinforces the will, and will be used to counter any challenge to the decedent's wishes for his/her estate.
Please carefully consider also making provision for pets and persons who will need funds to care out your wishes. Do not assume that family will care for beloved Fluffy...I see too many seniors pets dumped in shelters and quickly euthanized. Make a plan for the care of your surviving pet's lifetime needs, and ensure you have a couple of people lined up who would willingly accept your pet. Plan for 30 days of boarding expense to allow transfer to new caretaker.

I use to work in a law office many moons ago and I thought I could draft anything I wanted for myself. My hubby at the time didn't want to bother going to house settlements on properties that we bought, so I drafted up a Power of Attorney for him to sign and had it notarized.

Thank goodness I had presented that POA to the settlement company prior to the closing date or the whole thing would have came to a screeching halt. Apparently the POA wasn't accepted by the law firm to use in this matter, different wordage was needed, yada, yada, yada. Lot of scrambling to get hubby to sign. There wasn't email back then, no docu-sign, etc.

Never again did I do-it-myself.

Fortunately, I was a legal secretary for many years and I did the simple wills in our office without any instructions from the lawyers for whom I worked. I've moved a few times, I've rewritten my will several times and am about to do it again. As was mentioned, the most recent will, dated, notarized and witnessed, is the legal will.

The author makes a good point about not relying on crossed-out sections of the will, and clearly stating your intention to revoke all previous wills.

Regarding finding a lawyer to revise a current will, I found it was not that easy. A number of years ago I accompanied my mother to a lawyer to develop an updated will. The sticking point of her will is that she named me and another sibling as co-executers, and they have since moved even farther away. After my dad died, although I was not executor, I realized what was involved and the importance of this role. I became concerned about potential problems in carrying out the necessary administration work if my sibling lived far away and was, God forbid, unable to get back for the funeral. So mom thought about changing her will to name just one executer.

However, by this time, her Alzheimer's was worse, the lawyer who did the will in the first place retired, and those I contacted on mom's behalf were extremely suspicious of me. I felt guilty and seedy. So we both just gave up on the idea and I contacted my sibling and ensured her full cooperation when the time came.

My mom had a Will, Living Trust, Financial and Health POA's, a Healthcare Directive - you name it. She thought everything was taken care of. Then my sister (the name Successor Trustee/Executor) passed away. It was then that I pulled out the documents and found that some of them did not hold proper instruction on 'if the named successor is no longer able to perform their responsibilities' clause. Bank accounts and other assets had changed.

My suggestion to people is that all Trust/Will legal documents be re-visited every 5 yrs., max., with any major Medicaid law change or life-altering event within the family. Thank you for this forum and article.

Attorney Heiser, thank you for that good article.

My parents had an old Will where they had bequeath stock to certain people. Fast forward and most of those people have passed on years ago. The Will also mentioned "their heirs" for the said stock bequeaths but didn't say immediate heirs or going back through the whole family tree heirs. I had nightmares of thinking I would need to find who was related to my Dad's late sister-in-law who I didn't really know.

Anywho, I was able to get my parents [who are in their mid-90's] to rewrite their Wills with an Elder Law attorney. It was slow going getting my parents there, but I finally found if I mentioned that the Commonweath could get most of their estate if their Will wasn't updated perked up my Dad's ears [sometimes we need to stretch the truth to get an elder to pay attention]. New Wills have been signed :)

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Really reviewing and updating all legal is a good idea every decade or when there is a significant change.

As MERP ramps up in the states, I'd bet that family who are dealing with an intestate death will find that since the state is owed estate recovery, that the state gets priority over any family. If your state escheats everything to the state for interstates, I would imagine it places the state in the drivers seat for disposition on estates assets.