An ambiguous will is a will that is unclear or confusing about how the deceased’s estate should be divided. For example, “I leave my entire estate to my children equally.” However, if the deceased has more than one child, it’s unclear how the estate should be divided. This can lead to disputes between family members over who gets what.
It’s important to understand that an ambiguous will doesn’t mean that the will is automatically invalid. If there are questions about what the will means, those questions will need to be resolved by a court. Similarly, the fact that a will is ambiguous doesn’t mean that you won’t get anything from the estate. You may still receive something, depending on the circumstances.
If you’re a beneficiary of an ambiguous will, you may have to go to court to determine how the estate should be divided. Here are some things you should know about determining your legal rights after an ambiguous will:
Common Reasons a Will Becomes Ambiguous
Aside from the document’s language, other factors that make a will ambiguous include lack of clarity about inheritance splitting. To illustrate this, you are the sole beneficiary of your deceased parent’s estate. In their will, they stated that they wanted you to inherit everything. However, your siblings raise arguments when you go to probate court to validate the will. They may say they helped raise you and were always there for you, so they should receive a portion of the estate. Because of the lack of clarity, the court must give a ruling how an estate should be divided.
Another issue would involve disputes among beneficiaries about the will’s validity. For example, suppose your parent dies, leaving a will that designates you as the sole beneficiary of their estate. However, shortly before your parent died, they changed their mind and decided to leave the estate to your sibling instead. If you contest the will, you could claim that your parent was not of sound mind when they made the change, and a court would need to determine the will’s validity.
When someone dies, their will is often the key to determining how their estate is divided. However, what happens when that will is ambiguous or leaves out important details? This can lead to a legal process of interpreting the will, known as probate. These proceeding often goes as follows:
- You and all involved parties may have to go to court to have a judge interpret the will.
- The court will look at the entire document and any other relevant evidence to determine how the estate should be divided. This includes marriage and/or divorce certificates, property deeds, bank statements, and tax returns.
- The court’s interpretation of the will is binding on all parties. And depending on the circumstances, you may still have an opportunity to appeal the result.
By knowing what to expect, you can be better prepared to protect your legal rights during probate.
What Can You Do?
If you’re a beneficiary of an ambiguous will, it’s essential to know your legal rights and options. This will ensure you aren’t taken advantage of during a difficult and emotional time. You must be aware of your options, especially if others contest the will’s contents or question its validity. Clearing any ambiguity in a will is essential to fairly and evenly distributing a person’s assets after their death. To do this, you would need the assistance of an experienced beneficiary rights lawyer. They can help you understand what the will says and how it affects your legal standing. If there are any disputes over the will, they can help you pursue a legal case to get what you believe is rightfully yours.
What if they didn’t leave a will?
If there is no will left behind by the deceased person, then the laws of intestacy will apply. This means that the estate will be divided according to a pre-determined set of rules, which might not reflect the wishes of the deceased. For example, if a married person dies without a will, their spouse would receive half of the estate, and their children would split the other half. However, if they had wanted their spouse to receive only a quarter of the estate and their children to receive an eighth, this would not happen under intestacy law.
Beneficiaries need to know their legal rights and options, so they aren’t taken advantage of during a difficult time. This will contribute to fairly and evenly distributing a person’s assets after death and ensure you receive what you are entitled to.