Dear Jonathan: When I die, I want to give one half of my estate to my children and the other half to certain friends in need and charities. I do not have a large estate, but I have been a good steward of my money and have an investment portfolio worth over $2 million.

Although my children have all done well for themselves and don’t need to receive an inheritance from me, I am concerned they might challenge my will when they realize who I have included as beneficiaries.

Can they do that? If so, how do I stop them from challenging my will?


Jonathan says: Your children have the right to challenge your will, but that doesn’t mean they would be successful if they do.

So long as you meet the criteria in your state for making a will and it is prepared and executed in accordance with state law, it is unlikely that any challenge brought by your children would be successful.

The criteria for making a valid will, besides complying with the execution requirements of the state you live in, are first, being of legal age, which is 18 in most states, and second, being of sound mind and having the mental capacity to make the will.

Having mental or legal capacity means that you:

  • Know the nature and extent of your property, i.e., the assets you have
  • Know who the natural objects of your bounty are, i.e., who your family members are
  • Understand what you are doing, i.e., understand what you are disposing of, whom you are naming as your beneficiaries, and that you are making and executing your will voluntarily


Having said the above, I recommend you share with your children what you plan to do and even document that the conversation took place.

This will avoid them being surprised later, as well as give you the opportunity to explain what you are doing and why. Open and honest communication, in my view, is the best way to discourage arguments and potential challenges later.

I also recommend you have an estate planning attorney prepare your will on your behalf.

Good luck!


Jonathan J. David is a shareholder in the law firm of Foster, Swift, Collins & Smith, P.C., 1700 E. Beltline N.E., Grand Rapids, MI 49525.

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