According to the New York Times, family members of the copper heiress, Huguette Clark, found themselves disinherited by her Last Will and Testament.  It also reported that the late Ms. Clark executed two (2) Wills in 2005, approximately six (6) weeks apart.  The first Will left a substantial portion of her Estate to her family.  The second Will left many family members with nothing, and included bequests to Ms. Clark’s accountant, her attorney and her longtime nurse.   Ms. Clark’s family members sued, and the parties reputedly reached a settlement.

These circumstances seem all too common in today’s probate and estate environment.  After the death of a loved one, people are shocked to find they have been partially, or totally, disinherited.  Often times, another family member was the driving force behind the loss of inheritance.

Examples include:

  • Lifetime gifts that favor one person;
  • Creation of joint accounts that eliminate some beneficiaries;
  • Removing or altering beneficiary designations on life insurance or retirement accounts;
  • Modifying a Will to reduce, or eliminate, the amount of the Estate going to certain beneficiaries.

This list is by no means exclusive, as there are many ways to defraud someone of their inheritance. 

If you have been victimized by these types of behavior, you have rights.  Individual circumstances vary, and there may be legitimate reasons for the actions that were taken.  Often times, however, there is no legitimate basis for the actions that were taken.  Courts can overturn these transfers, or alterations to a Will, and restore your inheritance. 

You must take action quickly.  If a Will has been probated you could have as little as four (4) months to make a claim.  This makes it important to seek legal counsel about your rights as soon as possible.