My husband's father passed away less than a week ago. He was a New Mexico resident with severe dementia. We are Americans who live in the United Kingdom right now, but will be moving soon to Missouri. My husband just spoke to his father's attorney, who drew up his father's will in 2008. His father never allowed my husband to see the will while he was alive; my husband was disinherited entirely.However, by the time he created the will, my husband's father was already suffering fairly severe dementia and had been hospitalized for several weeks in February 2008. In order to get out of the hospital, he told my husband that he would agree to having a part-time caregiver, would give my husband power of attorney, and so forth. He was released home, but then refused to do these things and became very angry with my husband for trying to make him have a caregiver, etc. He was also very, very paranoid by this point. With the help of a young man in his apartment complex who recently had befriended him, he contacted a lawyer about drawing up a will in which he disinherited my husband and gave virtually all the money to the young man in question and the remainder to the young man's parents (i.e., possible undue influence). My husband has a letter from when his father was in the hospital (written by a woman with a PhD in Health Psychology and Neuropsychology) explicitly stating that the father "currently lacks capacity for medical and financial decisionmaking as a result of possible anoxic encephalopathy from recent major seizures. Cognitively, he exhibits difficulty with memory, sequencing and problem-solving, as well as unawareness of the extent of his deficits. He was unable to recount the reason he has been hospitalized or the medical conditions for which he has been prescribed some of the medications he regularly takes. His cognitive deficits are such that he will be unable to reliably manage his day-to-day financial affairs." My husband returned to the UK; he considered challenging his father's competence with the objective of putting him in an appropriate facility, but did not do so because the man had been utterly miserable in the hospital and the young man named in the will promised that he would look after the father. Given all this, we are thinking about challenging the will on the grounds that he was not competent to make it at that time and, possibly, on grounds of undue influence. My questions are:1) Given the facts of the case, how much might it cost us to find out the value of the estate? This will determine whether we go forward. Given his father's secretiveness (a lifelong trait that degenerated into paranoia as the dementia worsened), we truly have no notion of what it might be worth -- it could be a few thousand or more than $125000. We do know at times he had at least $200,000 in the bank, and that was without the value of his home.2) Do we have a good case, and what are our odds of winning? How much will it likely cost to contest the will, and will a lawyer take on this type of case on contingency?3)What would be the logical first steps for finding a good NM estate lawyer?
State/Country relating to question: New Mexico
Searching for answers online is as far as we've gotten.
1) I am sorry to hear about this happening. The description of what has occurred here sounds like the very definition of "undue influence" as grounds to vacate the will. Undue influence occurs when someone who has a confidential relationship with the grantor uses that influence and has themselves named as beneficiary of the grantor's bequests. This sounds exactly like what occurred in this instance. This means hiring a probate attorney to file a challenge to the will, which you must do so immediately upon opening of probate or he could lose all rights to make this challenge.2) I am afraid that predicting odds of winning without having the benefit of reviewing the evidence is an unfair question that nobody can answer. Also, the cost to contest a will could run $5000 or more, it all depends on how much the other party fights the challenge and attorneys do not take these cases on a contingency, you have to pay by the hour (roughly $250+ per hour). 3) The best way to find a local probate attorney in NM is using the same sites used by other attorneys, http://www.martindale.com or http://www.lexmundi.com
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