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What should you do if your loved one left more than one will?

On Behalf of | Jun 30, 2024 | Estate Planning |

You may have known that your loved one had a will and even where to find it. But what if, as you’re going through their documents, you find another will? Maybe another family member knows the location of yet another one. What if each of those wills has some significant difference?

If this is the situation you’re facing, you aren’t alone. Families often find multiple wills after a loved one dies – particularly if they didn’t have regular estate planning guidance. One or more may have handwritten changes, like sections crossed out and changes scribbled in the margins. 

How do you determine which reflects your loved one’s most recent wishes? If you do, is it even legally valid? Multiple wills or handwritten changes on a will often lead to family disputes – especially if one or more parties’ inheritances are at stake.

The most recent will might not be the one accepted by the court

If a family finds multiple wills or other estate plan documents, they all need to be submitted to the probate judge handling the estate. They need to determine which one is to be used. Typically, it will be the most recent valid one. Handwritten changes may not be accepted, especially if they weren’t witnessed. If there’s evidence that changes were made based on someone’s “undue influence” or if the deceased had some cognitive impairment near the end, those changes may be rejected.

The best thing to do is to turn everything over to the probate judge as soon as possible. If your loved one had an estate planning professional, consult with them. If there are disagreements within the family over what your loved one’s final intentions were, it’s wise to get legal guidance to protect your rights and your loved one’s wishes.