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Will Contests

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CaseIn re Estate of J. Don Brock

Issue:  Do will Contestants have standing to challenge a will if they will not benefit if it is set aside?

Facts:  Contestants are five adopted children of Decedent. Decedent executed a 2013 Will explicitly disinheriting Contestants, which was submitted for probate. Contestants challenged the Will on numerous grounds pertaining to fraud and undue influence. The Estate then submitted a 2012 Will which also disinherited Contestants. Contestants amended their challenge to this Will also, along with Wills from 2006, 1998, and 1994. The last will disinherited only one of the Contestants, and if all were invalid, they would inherit through intestate succession. The trial court ultimately held the Contestants lacked standing to challenge the 2013 Will because, if it was set aside, they would not inherit under the 2012 Will, which was facially valid

Appellate Decision:  The intermediate court held that the trial court properly followed binding Supreme Court precedent, and upheld the decision. However, the intermediate court did recognize concerns with this result and that other jurisdictions have reached contrary results.

Review Granted:  March 8, 2017.

Prediction:  Ben thinks the Supreme Court will reverse the result and its prior decisions that strip contesters of standing under such circumstances, where there are potential concerns with both the final and penultimate wills.