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Impeaching Wills

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By Shannon Laymon-Pecoraro, CELA

We often hear from family members who are unhappy with the terms of a loved one’s current Will. The issue is often laced with problematic family dynamics where multiple people claim undue influence or lack of capacity. This intricate web of issues can lead to expensive litigation.

As an attorney, the most important factor when creating a Will for a client is obtaining their goals and objectives. There are a number of reasons why dispositions under a Will may treat one or more persons more favorably than another, and there may be a number of reasons why one or more persons are disinherited. The reasons are personal to each family and at the end of the day, it is for the client to determine.

The unfortunate part of an attorney’s role is that we are unable to monitor the client’s daily interactions. As a result, while we can assess whether a client has testamentary capacity to create the will, we often will lack knowledge regarding the conversations the client has had with various family members so as to determine the degree of undue influence such persons may have over the client. While we try to uncover such influences, the conversations outside the attorney’s office are unknown and therefore claims of undue influence are prevalent.

In some cases, in particular cases of undue influence, litigation is appropriate. The issue, however, is the timing of such a claim. Since a will operates at the time of someone’s death, the will is revocable by the maker, and the contest of a will cannot be brought until the maker of the will has died. Any attempt to impeach a will prior to death would be barred by the court.

Ask Kit Kat: Motivating Your Dog

Hook Law Center: Kit Kat, what can you tell us about the best way to train your dog? What do the experts say?

Kit Kat: Well, the experts have chimed in, and it’s good to know that good old common sense is alive and well. By that, I mean, what the average person would probably guess is the best motivator for training one’s dog is true—it’s food! But now it’s based on research. According to the American Kennel Club, “Using treats during training is the best way to guarantee that your dog will repeat the behavior you want.” Other methods can work—like spending time with your dog or talking to him/her in soothing tones–but none works faster than food. Erica Feuerbacher, an assistant professor in the Department of Animal and Poultry Science at Virginia Tech, echoes this statement when she says, “They’ll work harder and respond faster for food than social interaction.”

This finding should not be a surprise. Would you as a human keep toiling away at your job if you weren’t paid? The same thing applies to dogs. Food is their payment for doing what you ask of them. Other findings by Dr. Feuerbacher reveal that praising a dog is no better than ignoring them. They stay beside you for the same amount of time in both situations.

So, it appears that food is a strong motivator for training dogs. Fear is also a motivator, but that has negative, and potentially long-lasting side effects. Dr. Feuerbacher also says that, if you find your dog doesn’t respond to a food treat, it may be that your dog is overfed. If you are going to use food as a training tool, make sure you figure in those calories in his/her daily diet. Also, she says, vary the type of treat. Just like humans, they appreciate variety. “Break out the spray cheese or liverwurst—people may need to be creative.”

Good luck—dog lovers! You now have a proven way to make your companion happy and responsive to your requests! (Linda Lombardi, “Food rewards: Way to a dog’s heart IS through its stomach,” The Virginian-Pilot (Daily Break), Oct. 3, 2019, p. 11)

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Posted on Thursday, October 17th, 2019. Filed under Senior Law News.
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