There is a story in the news about a woman in Rhode Island who was trying to overturn her aunts’ will, here:
Records Show Woman Gave Legion Of Christ $60 Million Over 20 Years
Essentially, the niece alleges that a charity exercised ‘undue influence’ on the aunt and had the aunt both give money during her lifetime and leave her fortune to the charity via a will. However, the suit was dismissed; in other words, the niece lost the suit, because she lacked “standing”.
The article does not go into detail over why the court found the niece lacked standing; but here’s a link to the case:
Dauray vs. Estate of Mee
It looks like the niece was not a beneficiary under the will nor under any of the trusts and she stated in a deposition that she was not interested in recovering any of the money for herself.
Why am I discussing this? Because standing matters in probate litigation in Florida.
In order to contest a will in Florida, you need to show that the person has “standing”. Standing means that you are going to be affected, personally, by the outcome of the case. That you stand to win or lose something from the case. Most of the time, this is not going to be difficult to show; if you are a spouse of the person who died, if you are a child of the person who died, you can usually show that if the will is thrown out, you will get something, personally.
Nonetheless, standing can be tricky; If you are not a child or spouse of the person who died, you have to show exactly what you would gain if the will were not probated; and in some circumstances, you can’t show that. For example; if you were not a child of the person who died, but a stepchild, that is, the child of the persons deceased spouse; you may have difficulty in showing standing. Why? Because, normally, if a will is thrown out, the estate is considered to be ‘intestate’, which means it passes according to what the state sets out. While, theoretically, a stepchild could inherit from a stepparent in intestacy, you would have to show that there were no surviving relatives of the person who died; no siblings, cousins or second cousins; in other words there were no surviving descendants of the persons grandparents what so ever. A second cousin who never knew the person would get the estate before a stepchild.
Likewise, if you are a surviving grandchild of the person who died; if your parent is alive, you would probably not get anything in an intestate estate; if the estate were intestate, your parent, not you, would get the inheritance. Or, in the case where there the person left children or grandchildren; a niece or nephew probably would not have standing to challenge a will; because if the will were thrown out, the estate would go to the children or grandchildren, not the niece or nephew.
And, if you’re not related by blood or marriage; if you’re simply a neighbor, a friend, or even a long time companion of the person who died, you almost certainly are not going to receive anything in an intestate estate.
Now, if you can show that you would have received something under a prior will or a trust, then you might have standing; you would have to show that ‘but for’ the latest will you would have gotten something under a previous will or such.
Standing can get very complicated, and each case needs to be evaluated on it’s own facts; depending on the exact circumstances, there may be a way to gain standing. You need to talk to a lawyer about this.
If you have questions about a will contest or how to challenge a will in The Villages, Florida, feel free to contact my office.