Ethics on a Last Will & Testament

By A.L. Kennedy

Whether you are making your own will or helping someone else to make his, you should consider carefully any ethical concerns that arise. Common ethics questions related to wills include whether you may disinherit a spouse or child and how much assistance it is proper to give someone else who is making a will. An attorney who practices estate law in your state can help you address your specific ethics questions.

Whether you are making your own will or helping someone else to make his, you should consider carefully any ethical concerns that arise. Common ethics questions related to wills include whether you may disinherit a spouse or child and how much assistance it is proper to give someone else who is making a will. An attorney who practices estate law in your state can help you address your specific ethics questions.

Disinheriting a Spouse or Children

When making a will, the testator often leaves his property to his spouse and/or children. However, some people wish to exclude either their spouse, children or both out of the will entirely. Most states will permit you to leave your children out of your will so long as the will indicates that the omission is deliberate. Many states have protective provisions for a surviving spouse and do not allow a spouse to be excluded from the assets of a shared estate.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan

Fraud

When helping someone plan or make her will, you should keep several ethical issues in mind to avoid a will contest after the testator dies. First, you should consider your behavior carefully to avoid a will contest based on fraud. Fraud occurs when someone lies to the testator or misrepresents facts to get the testator to leave him a bigger share of the estate. Lying to a person making a will for personal gain is a serious ethical concern. If you are taking care of someone who is making his will or may be called upon to help someone make his will, you may wish to consult an attorney so that you know what behavior might be considered fraud in your state.

Undue Influence and Coercion

Like fraud, undue influence and coercion are unethical actions taken for personal benefit. Both may be the basis for a successful will challenge, and wills are often contested on the grounds that a caretaker of the testator committed undue influence or coercion. Both undue influence and coercion involve the caretaker or person helping with the will using his relative power over the testator to get what he wants, rather than to help the testator ensure her own wishes are expressed. You may be able to avoid the appearance of unethical undue influence or coercion by always having a third person present when you and the testator discuss, plan or prepare the will.

Forgery

Writing or signing an important legal document while pretending to be someone else is unethical, and forgery of a will is no exception. In the case of wills, the forgery may alter some part of the will or the entire thing. It may involve the provisions of the will or may be an alteration of the date or signature. To avoid having your own or another's will suspected as a forgery, make sure it is witnessed and the original is kept in a safe place. Make changes by making an entirely new will or by writing changes on a separate piece of paper along with the date, your signature and the signatures of two witnesses, and storing these changes along with the will. Always ensure your will contains the complete correct date it was made.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan
Pennsylvania's Statute of Wills

References

Resources

Related articles

Making Corrections on a Will Without a Lawyer

After you have made your will, you may find that it contains errors or that you want to amend, change or remove some information. Making corrections on a will without a lawyer is legal as long as your corrections meet the requirements of your state's law for corrections, additions and deletions to wills.

How to Prevent Someone From Contesting a Will

A contest to your will may drag out the legal proceedings for your estate, deplete the inheritance you left for your loved ones, and cause ill will in your family. Any person with legal standing in your estate, such as an heir, has the right to contest your will in court. The basis for the contest depends on what the heir believes occurred, but some common claims in a will contest are fraud, undue influence — when one heir believes you were coerced into your will provisions by someone else — and the assertion that you were not mentally competent at the time the will was drafted.

Is Amending Your Will Yourself Legal in Iowa?

A will or testament is a legal document that disposes of property upon a person's death and designates a guardian for the decedent's minor children, if any. When a person creates a will in Iowa, he must follow the state's prescribed legal procedures for drafting a will so it is valid and will be implemented upon death. The same legal procedures must also be strictly followed to amend a will.

LegalZoom. Legal help is here. Start Here. Wills. Trusts. Attorney help.

Related articles

Missouri Law on Last Wills

Writing a will means that you decide who acquires your property when you die. If you don’t make a will, you are said to ...

What Are the Chances of Contesting a Will & Winning?

A will contest or will challenge is a case brought to a probate court in order to test a will's validity. Most will ...

How to Invalidate a Last Will & Testament

A will contains an individual's final wishes. As a result, any attempt to invalidate it must meet a high standard of ...

Reasons to Contest a Will

It is not enough to be unhappy with the way the property of an estate is distributed in a will to contest its validity, ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED