Chesapeake, VA asked in Estate Planning for Maryland

Q: Aunt passed away and left entire estate to the nieces and nephews of 2 of her 3 siblings.

The 2 siblings (parents of the beneficiaries) pre-deceased her. Her 3rd sibling is still living (her sister). She did not leave anything to her 3rd sibling (her sister) or her children.

The children of her living sister are threatening to contest the will. Can the nieces and nephews of the still-living sibling do this? Or does the sibling have to contest the will, because technically she is next in line, not her children? What if one of her children has power of attorney for her mother?

Hope this makes sense, thanks!

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1 Lawyer Answer
Mark Oakley
Mark Oakley
  • Estate Planning Lawyer
  • Rockville, MD
  • Licensed in Maryland

A: The children of the living sibling of the decedent do not have standing to contest the will because they would not receive any part of the estate even if they prevailed--only their mother would if the will were set aside.

If the living sibling granted a power of attorney naming someone else their agent to engage in any lawsuit or bring any action on their bahalf in support of any claim they may have, then that person may bring any claim the living sister may have made, but any recovery would be for the benefit of the living sister, not for the person acting under the POA.

As far as the viability of such a will contest, called a caveat proceeding, the burden of proof is steep. Either the will itself has to be facially invalid (e.g., not signed in accordance with the statutory requirements), or there must be proof that the decedent lacked mental capacity to make or understand the will she signed at the time she signed it, or that others coerced or controlled her to such a degree that she was incapable of resisting signing a will that did not refelect how she wanted her estate to be distributed.

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