Question: Can I contest a Year’s Support Petition that has already been granted?
Background: My father died, and my stepmother filed for the entire estate ($718,000). Yes, I did sign the request, but I did not understand that the petition cut me and my siblings out of any inheritance. I guess I just don’t have legalese as a second language.
When I asked what the status was on the estate, I was told that it was closed — that she got everything and the three of us were left out.
Do I have any options for overturning this judgement?
Answer from Loraine: It would be very unlikely, given the facts you state, for you to be able to get a year’s support award overturned. It would generally require you to make a very strong showing that the claims made by your stepmother in her Year’s Support Petition were fraudulent. Please also note, you actually cannot contest your stepmother’s right to the year’s support award. That is set under Georgia law.
If you could have shown that your stepmother was asking for more than was necessary, you could have asked the court to award her a lower amount. Unless you were willing and able to spend a lot of time and money arguing about it in court, a challenge may not have gotten you anything anyhow. I don’t know whether that will be a comfort to you but maybe it will be.
Key Estate Planning Takeaway: If you don’t speak “legalese,” you should know what your signature means on a legal document. By signing, you are indicating that you have read and understood the terms laid out in the document. It is your signature that makes the document legally binding. Before you sign any legal document, consult an attorney to fully understand what signing the document will mean for you.
This “Q&A with Loraine” blog series features answers from Morgan + DiSalvo Partner Loraine DiSalvo to questions posted on www.avvo.com. A key takeaway from each exchange highlights an important facet of estate planning.