Unfortunately, despite the best-laid estate plans, sometimes beneficiaries or the assets they are to inherit are challenged by other involved parties. If you are dealing with a matter, you need the productive services of an experienced estate planning attorney like Randall J. Borden, Attorney at Law. He has the comprehensive knowledge of Virginia law to see you through any situation involving challenges to a beneficiary, whichever side of the dispute you are on.

With 30 years of respected practice in this field of law, he is exceptionally well-equipped to guide you through the complexities of estate law in Virginia and to represent you in negotiations or, if litigation becomes necessary, in the courtroom.

What a Beneficiary Is and How Beneficiaries Are Determined

A beneficiary is an individual or entity designated to receive assets from an estate upon the death of the testator (the person who made the will). In Virginia, a will explicitly outlines the distribution of the testator’s assets to named beneficiaries. 

Nevertheless, all wills must comply with state laws to be considered valid and not be contested. The law stipulates that a will must be written rather than spoken, signed, and witnessed according to the specific requirements of the state in which it’s drafted and executed.

When the Would-Be Testator Dies Without a Will

If a person dies without a will (intestate), state laws determine beneficiaries strictly according to bloodline. In Virginia, intestacy laws follow a similar hierarchy, favoring spouses, children, and other relatives. The distribution varies based on family structure and the existence of surviving relatives. It is important to note that the distribution pattern required by intestate succession law may differ, sometimes greatly, from the deceased’s wishes.

Who Has the Legal Standing to Challenge a Beneficiary?

The right to challenge a beneficiary designation is limited to individuals or entities with a direct, legitimate interest in the estate. In Virginia, this usually includes heirs, other beneficiaries, and sometimes creditors. Those who might have been beneficiaries under a previous will, or would be under intestacy laws, may also have such standing. The grounds for challenges may include allegations of undue influence, fraud, lack of testamentary capacity, or issues with the way the will was executed.

How Our Attorney Can Help Prevent Beneficiary Challenges

Attorney Borden is a determined professional who is used to taking proactive steps to minimize the likelihood of beneficiary challenges. He accomplishes this by ensuring that the wills he drafts and executes are meticulously worded and carefully reviewed. 

He further makes certain to advise his clients on how best to select their beneficiaries and communicate their choices to family members in a transparent manner. In addition, he has the foresight to document the testator’s mental capacity and freedom from undue influence before the will is executed.

How Testators Themselves Can Help to Prevent Beneficiary Challenges

Testators themselves can also play an important role in preventing beneficiary challenges by:

  • Communicating openly with their beneficiaries about their estate plan in general and their will in particular, so that any questions, concerns, or confusions are addressed before their passing.
  • Updating their will as necessary so that the current reflects recent changes in circumstances, such as marriage, divorce, birth or adoption, death, or alterations to their financial situation.
  • Choosing personal representatives (executors) carefully to ensure that their estate is administered efficiently and effectively, and their choice of beneficiaries is unlikely to be contested.
  • Using a no-contest clause in their will to discourage beneficiaries from disputes since challenging a beneficiary named in the will will cause them to forfeit their inheritance.
  • Adding a clause to the will that recommends mediation or alternative dispute resolution if there is a serious disagreement among beneficiaries.
  • Documenting their decision-making process to demonstrate that they have acted with free will and without coercion or undue influence.
  • Obtaining medical and/or psychological evaluations that will confirm mental competence.

How Our Attorney’s Qualifications Enable Him to Deal with Beneficiary Challenges 

If a  beneficiary challenge arises, having a skilled attorney is crucial. Our attorney can negotiate disputes amicably or, if necessary, represent you aggressively in court since he has:

  • Mastery of the complex estate laws of both Virginia
  • Agile negotiation and diplomatic skills
  • A long track record of successful litigation experience
  • Dedication to meeting clients’ concerns with understanding and tailoring his services to suit their unique needs

Contact Our Experienced Fairfax Estate Planning Attorney Today

Whether you are seeking to challenge a beneficiary designation or defending against such a challenge, Randall Borden is equipped to provide robust representation. He understands the emotional and financial issues involved and will work hard to ensure your rights and interests are protected. Contact us today.