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Church loses probate appeal, won't get $100K gift

While you are alive, you can change the terms of your estate plan. This reflects the fact that as the years pass, people come in and out of your life, and your priorities may change. However, if you are not careful about how you amend your will, beneficiaries who now will receive less -- or nothing at all -- may challenge the new will when the time comes for your estate to go through probate.

A case from outside of Florida illustrates how passionate people and institutions can get when the prospect of a large gift from a decedent's estate is at stake. A church in Wisconsin recently lost its appeal of a probate court decision to accept a new will from a deceased man that left most of his estate to a friend.

The church argued that the will was invalid. An earlier will bequeathed $100,000 to the church, while the later will left it $10,000. The decedent died in January 2011 with significant real property in his name, including 57 acres estimated to be worth millions of dollars. However, he had little cash on hand.

A 2009 will signed by the decedent left most of his estate to a friend. Challenges to the will claimed that the friend manipulated the decedent to amend his will several times since the 1990s, giving the friend a larger share of his estate each time.

The probate judge accepted the 2009 will, and on appeal the court upheld that decision. The reasoning behind the decision is not given by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, but it can be very difficult to prove that a will is invalid.

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