Sometimes, when reading a deceased person's will to determine the distribution of his or her estate, more than one will is present. If the different iterations of the will contain drastically varying terms, this can create significant conflicts in the estate distribution process. This is especially true if one version of the will includes certain family members while another version excludes them.
In general, it is wise to destroy an old version of a will before it can create complications, as well as document one's intent to destroy the will to clarify which version best addresses the will creator's wishes. If, in your own estate planning, you fail to destroy an old will that may cause complications, you only do a disservice to the ones you love, potentially draining your estate's resources before the assets can pass on to heirs as you intend.
If you find yourself contesting one version of a will on the basis that the version that favors you is the most authoritative version, one of the most important things to identify is the date on which the decedent created the will. Should an executor attempt to disperse property according to one will, only to find another will that has a later date, courts generally favor the most recent version of the will. The newer will usually prevails unless some interested party can produce compelling evidence of wrongdoing in the creation of the will -- such as undue influence or creation without testamentary capacity.
Be mindful to carefully prepare a strong legal strategy to help ensure that your rights remain secure as you resolve any estate planning dispute relating to a last will and testament.