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What happens when multiple wills are discovered?

On Behalf of | Oct 23, 2023 | Estate Litigation

Estate administration is a complex and often lengthy process that involves managing a deceased individual’s assets, debts and final wishes. In most cases, a last will and testament clearly outlines how the deceased’s estate should be distributed.

However, what happens when multiple wills are discovered during estate administration? Understanding the intricacies of such a scenario can enable you to anticipate the legal processes and challenges involved.

The discovery of multiple wills

A last will and testament generally expresses wishes regarding the distribution of an individual’s assets and the appointment of an executor to carry out these wishes. When a person dies, their will serves as a crucial document guiding the estate administration process. This resource often outlines beneficiaries, bequests and instructions for the division of assets. But sometimes, multiple wills may come to light during the estate administration process. The deceased may have updated their will at different points in their life, leading to multiple versions of the document. The challenge here is determining which will is the most recent and, therefore, legally valid.

Another scenario involves the deceased inadvertently misplacing one or more copies of their will. These misplaced documents may come to light after their passing, leading to confusion during estate administration.

Finally, in some cases, multiple wills are discovered due to potential foul play. This could involve fraud, where a new will is created under questionable circumstances, or coercion, where the deceased was manipulated into making changes to their will.

Legal implications and challenges

Determining the validity and legitimacy of each will is the first step. A court of law can examine the circumstances surrounding the creation of each will and whether they comply with legal requirements. If one of the wills is found to be the most recent and valid, it typically revokes any prior wills. This revocation can affect beneficiaries named in the earlier wills, potentially leading to disputes. Moreover, beneficiaries named in different wills may contest the validity of the other wills.

In the event of multiple wills during estate administration, it is essential to engage an experienced legal professional to help you determine each will’s validity and navigate potential disputes. Unfortunately, there is generally no alternative when questions concerning a will’s validity come into play.