Just a month ago, we discussed the will that famed actor Mickey Rooney had in place at the time of his recent death. In that post, we explored the terms of his will, as reported by the media, which was quite clear in regards to what Rooney intended to leave to his eight children: nothing. Instead, Rooney named his stepson, who had also shared a close caretaking relationships with the actor, as beneficiary.
Not surprisingly, the actor’s children took issue with being disinherited. Although the actor’s estate is reportedly worth only about $18,000, seven of Rooney’s eight children have contested the will. Their challenge is based on accusations that undue influence played a role in the terms Rooney signed off on in the will.
Rooney’s will was signed a matter of weeks before he passed away. However, there is no reason to suggest that Rooney was suffering mental decline or other issues that would put him in a vulnerable state at the time he signed his will. In fact, Rooney was preparing for a film project and had cleared the physical and mental requirements to participate.
However, now Rooney’s children are arguing that he was influenced by his stepson and his attorney, who was named as the executor, to disinherit his children. Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon claim when children are left out of a will.
In this case, however, the attorney for Rooney’s executor stated that there is no merit to the challenges and Rooney finalized the terms of his will on his own without any influence from the executor or the actor’s stepson.
Testators can go to great lengths to try and avoid messy disputes over the execution of their will. However, the fact is that many people have reason to believe that a will should be challenged. A contest could be based on undue influence (as was the case here), undisclosed finances or discrepancies in who is included or left out of a will.
However, not every challenge is successful so it is crucial to understand what is at stake. If there is legitimate reason to contest a will or if there is a significant sum of money or important assets involved, it can be crucial to work with an attorney to file a challenge.
Source: Contra Costa Times, “Mickey Rooney’s family fighting over his will,” Tony Hicks, May 13, 2014