Diego MaradonaDiego Maradona died last week. He was one of the greatest soccer players of all time. Even if you don’t know much about soccer, you’ve probably heard his name. Along with Pele, he was one of the most iconic soccer players of the 20th century. He won the World Cup with Argentina in 1986 and scored the “Goal of the Century” according to many. But Diego Maradona also had his demons and was twice banned from soccer for using drugs. On the field, he was a maestro with the ball, one of the best dribblers you may ever see.

However, based on his personal history, some seem to think that an inheritance battle may be in the future. Sources close to his family say that he died without a will. And based on the history of paternity suits against him, it may be a tall task to distribute his estate.

Celebrities Dying Without A Will

The first caveat for all of this is that Diego Maradona is from Argentina. Argentina has different laws regarding inheritances. But if he was a U.S. citizen, his death would cause similar issues.

If it is true that he died without a will, he would join a long list of celebrities who have hit the news regarding their estate plans:

If the sources are correct, Diego Maradona may also find himself on this list.

What Happens When You Don’t Have A Will?

If you die without a will, the legal term is “intestate“.  The result is that the state’s laws govern how your estate will be divided up. Each state has different laws on the books as to who gets what. The court system of your state will get involved and have procedures to determine the distributions.

In the case of someone famous like Diego Maradona, one of the main concerns is that these procedures will be public. With this publicity, we’ll all get to know what he owned and who is getting his assets. If his children are unable to agree, then the proceedings can drag on even longer.

Paternity of Other Children – A Will Contest

It is anticipated that there may be other individuals who come forward and claim to be children of Diego Maradona. Doing so would be called a “Will Contest.” Will contests are usually brought on by individuals (could be family members, close friends, or business partners) who believe they have been wrongly disinherited. However, not all of your family or friends have the ability to contest your will in court. They must have legal “standing” to file a lawsuit. Standing means that a person involved in a lawsuit will be personally affected by the outcome of the case.

The following people have the ability to contest a will in probate court:

  • Current beneficiaries that are named in the will
  • Previous beneficiaries who were disinherited but were included in a previous will
  • An individual not named in the will but who would be eligible to inherit property based on a state’s intestacy laws (typically a biological child or spouse)

If a will is successfully contested, then the court will declare the will invalid and “throw it out.” If there is a previous will, then the court will abide by those terms. If there are no other estate planning documents, the state’s laws of intestacy will decide who inherits what property. As you might expect, this can be a disastrous outcome for your intended beneficiaries.

What Are the Legal Grounds for Contesting a Will?

If a person does have the legal standing to challenge your will, they must prove that the will is invalid due to one of the four reasons below:

  • The will is incomplete or faulty. Each state has specific laws that dictate how a will or trust must be signed in order for it to be legally valid. A will that has not followed these rules—signed without the proper number of witnesses, signatures missing, or omitting important text—could be contested.
  • Lack of mental capacityHaving the capacity to make a will means that the person understands (a) their assets, (b) their family relationships, and (c) the legal effect of signing a will. Each state has laws that set the threshold that must be overcome to prove that a person lacked sufficient mental capacity to sign a will.
  • The person making the will was unduly influenced into signing itAs people age and become weaker both physically and mentally, others may exert influence over decisions, including how to plan their estate. Undue influence can be exerted on the young and the not so young. Undue influence is more than just nagging or verbal threats. It must be so extreme that it causes you to give in and change your estate plan to favor the undue influencer.
  • The will was procured by fraudA will or trust that is signed by someone who thinks they are signing some other type of document or a document with different provisions is one that is procured by fraud.

How to Avoid a Will Contest

Considering the time and expense, will contests are something you’ll want to avoid at all costs. Not only would it jeopardize your final wishes but it also causes unnecessary and painful conflict among your loved ones during an already emotionally trying time. To avoid these disastrous and painful scenarios, consider the following:

  • Do not “do it yourself”! Even the smallest mistake can leave your wishes vulnerable to being contested by an unhappy relative or business partner. Only an experienced estate planning attorney will be able to help you create and maintain a plan that will discourage lawsuits.
  • Discuss your wishes with your family. It’s important to discuss your wishes with your family. You don’t have to discuss all of the intimate details of your estate plan, but letting beneficiaries know of your wishes and setting expectations for your agents can help avoid future will contests.
  • Don’t just disinherit wayward child(ren). Instead of completely disinheriting a beneficiary who may squander their inheritance or use it against your wishes, you can hold their inheritance in a lifetime discretionary trust, which would be overseen by a trusted individual or third party. Your beneficiary would then receive distributions over time instead of outright cash in a lump sum.
  • Keep your will up to date. Life changes—people are born and die, property is acquired, marriages happen, and your wishes may change. Your will is only effective when it reflects these changing circumstances. Having an updated will/estate plan that encompasses your current goals will be better at discouraging any future challenges.

Next Steps

Hopefully, Diego Maradona’s situation has convinced you that you need a will. If you don’t have a will yet, or if you have one that you may need to update, call my office to set up a Legal Strategy Session and we can review the best options for you – (877) AMAYERS.

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