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How age and health issues can lead to probate litigation

Estate planning allows someone to take control over their resources and provide for the needs of their closest family members. Under Illinois state law, most adults have the legal authority to draft estate planning documents. Unfortunately, sometimes those left behind when an individual dies believe that there is something wrong with their estate planning paperwork.

If the person who drafted the documents had certain health issues or was at an advanced age, their family members may be more likely to litigate concerns related to their estate plan.

Families may question someone’s testamentary capacity

Although theoretically any adult can draft estate planning documents, technically they need to have the testamentary capacity to do so. Advanced age can sometimes lead to cognitive decline and may compromise someone’s ability to draft or update estate planning documents that will hold up under scrutiny in Illinois probate court.

A variety of different medical conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease and various mental health disorders, could also eliminate someone’s testamentary capacity. If family members can show based on the date of a document’s creation that someone did not have the necessary cognitive capacity to create legally-binding estate planning paperwork, they may have grounds to contest the will or other estate planning paperwork in the Illinois probate courts. Medical records and even testimony from family members or experts could help someone develop the claim that their loved one’s will is invalid because they lacked the legal capacity to create valid documents.

What happens after a will contest?

If family members or other likely beneficiaries bring a successful claim against an estate based on a lack of testamentary capacity, the courts may choose to refer to an older will created by the testator to guide the probate process. Other times, it may be necessary to follow intestate succession laws because there are no estate planning documents to guide the process.

Understanding how someone’s age or health could affect the validity of their estate planning documents might benefit those concerns about the contents of a loved one’s testamentary paperwork. Seeking legal guidance can help someone who has such concerns make informed decisions about their options.

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