Disputed Inheritances

There are other ways assets can pass at the time of death, besides by the terms of a will or a trust. Assets can pass to someone at the time of death because the assets were in joint tenancy, and at death they pass to the surviving joint tenant. Assets can also pass in accordance with a “pay on death” designation, a beneficiary designation or the like. Sometimes an asset (usually an item of real property) passes in accordance with a deed that specifies that when one person who has been enjoying ownership of the property during lifetime (the life tenant) passes away, another person inherits the property (the remainderperson).

Whatever vehicle is employed to pass assets from one person to another when the first person dies, in order to be given effect, that vehicle should be valid and reliable—in short it should be free of undue influence, fraud, mistake, and the like, and the person who made the designation in favor of the one who will inherit—that person needs to have had capacity when he made that designation. If the vehicle which is employed to pass assets at death is not valid, and is not reliable, it can be contested, provided no time limitations for such a contest have expired.