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Issues that prompted probate litigation in an heiress’ estate

Huguette Clark was the daughter of a coal baron. When she died, her estate was worth more than $300 million. She had signed a will that left most of it to 21 relatives, some of whom she did not even know. At some point, however, she reportedly signed a second will that negated the first, and this action eventually led to probate litigation after she passed away.

It seems the second will changed the instructions, leaving most of her estate to her nurse, her goddaughter and a charity. Many of the relatives mentioned in the first will challenged the second, saying Clark was coerced into signing it. Their case was ultimately settled without going to trial and the relatives received approximately $30 million.

It is a fact that a person must be in sound mind when signing estate planning documents. It is also true that no one can cause duress or force a person to sign a will. If someone who was disinherited believes it was done under provocation or other illicit circumstances, he or she can file a petition to challenge the will.

An experienced Illinois probate litigation attorney can review a particular case and help determine a best course of action to resolve a specific problem. An estate owner has the right to change or update a last will and testament as needed, which sometimes includes excluding people who had once been in line for an inheritance. Such situations often cause family rifts that last for months or even years. An experienced estate law attorney can help families keep stress to a minimum and achieve their ultimate goals.

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