A recent story in the Wall Street Journal provides a good case study of one possible way in which a Will dispute can turn out. This story took place in Connecticut, which is well outside the bounds of the Arizona Probate Code, but this type of thing could really happen anywhere. At the core of this story is Lucille Dioro’s $3.6 million estate, and a disputed Will that dramatically changed the division of this estate. The parties on one side of the dispute argued that Ms. Dioro was unduly influenced to change her Will after she had been diagnosed with dementia, and that a prior Will should control the estate’s division. The parties on the other side of the dispute argued that Ms. Dioro had full capacity and authority to change her Will, and that the most recent Will should control the estate’s division.
Ms. Dioro completed her most recent Will in 2006, not long after she was diagnosed with dementia. The two people situated to benefit most handsomely from these changes were alleged to unduly influence Ms. Dioro to make these changes. As a result of these changes, these individuals would gain an additional $1.3 million, which was taken from previous charitable gifts to certain schools and universities. As you can surmise, those whose inheritances were taken away under the new Will were not pleased with the situation.
A probate battle ensued, and each side was firmly committed to its position. In the end, however, the parties reached a settlement just days before the matter was scheduled to go to trial. Under the settlement, the parties have agreed to throw out the most recent Will, without reverting entirely back to the original Will. For instance, the executor of the estate was to get $400,000 under the original will, $900,000 under the new Will, and the settlement left him with $575,000. This type of arrangement typifies some of the creative settlement strategies that parties to a Will dispute can come up with.
Again, while AZ probate law had no bearing on this case, this type of settlement is one possible outcome of a will dispute under Arizona probate law. There are many reasons that people dispute a Will’s validity, but these disputes rarely succeed in Arizona without the guidance of an Arizona probate lawyer. If you are on either side of a Will dispute, the first thing you should do is speak with an Arizona probate attorney about the facts surrounding your case. Contact JacksonWhite Elder Law at 480-818-6912 for more information.