People often update their wills after a significant change occurs in their life, such as the birth of a child, marriage or onset of an illness. It is critical to destroy all copies of the old will after making updates, keeping only the most recent one on hand. Failing to do so can sow confusion among the beneficiaries and put the personal representative in a difficult situation during probate.
Why it’s important to destroy an old will
Among the initial duties of a personal representative is to submit the original will to probate court and ensure its validity. This task becomes difficult when there are two or more copies with differing content. Legal concerns may arise, such as:
· Was the testator in the right state of mind when writing it?
· Is there a possibility of coercion or undue influence?
· Is the current will legitimate?
· Did the testator make any effort to revoke the previous will?
· Do the wills comply with California law?
Ideally, the latest version of the will should supersede the previous copies. However, when there are significant discrepancies, such as changes in beneficiaries or asset distribution, the family may contest the will. Probate litigation may become necessary to settle this dispute.
Consider obtaining legal help
Discovering multiple wills during probate is a common problem. Still, it is not an easy task to take on alone, particularly when litigation seems to be on the horizon. Will contests can prolong probate, demand intricate legal knowledge and create emotional tensions among the family, all of which the personal representative must face.
Personal representatives must ensure that the assets of the estate are distributed correctly, in line with the law and according to the decedent’s wishes. An attorney can provide valuable guidance, helping make the probate process more manageable and assist with honoring the true intentions of the deceased.