Draft carefully to prevent a will contest

By December 3, 2010Uncategorized

You may have heard of Tasha Tudor, author and illustrator of many children’s books.  Perhaps most notably, she is recognized for illustrating the famed children’s book, Little Women.  Although Ms. Tudor passed away two years ago, her name continues to make headlines due to the probate battle that has carried on since her passing.  The Associated Press reported just recently that her children are set to go to trial over the legitimacy of her will.  Ms. Tudor’s estate is valued at more than two million dollars, and the outcome of the pending trial will determine precisely which of her kids will inherit the estate.

Ms. Tudor’s original will left each of her daughters only $1,000, and divided most of the remainder of her estate between her sons, Thomas and Seth.  In 2002, however, Ms. Tudor amended her will so that it cut out virtually all of Thomas’s inheritance.  As such, Ms. Tudor’s last will and testament left her son Seth with nearly all of her estate.  Thomas challenged the will, claiming that Ms. Tudor would never have changed her will but for Seth’s undue influence.  It is now up to the probate court to determine whether this is true.

While the trial will take place in Vermont, which is clearly outside the bounds of the Arizona Probate Code, these types of situations occur under AZ probate law with some frequency.  In fact, will contests occur in Arizona for a few reasons.  In addition to contests stemming from undue influence, as in the Tudor case, will contests may also be based on legal incapacity of the decedent and defects in the execution of the will itself.  The best way for people to protect themselves against these types of challenges is by working with an Arizona probate lawyer when executing a will.