The process of contesting a will can be complicated as it is quite difficult to prove its invalidity. The law considers a will as the proof of the testator’s wishes regarding the distribution of their assets and property. Since they are no longer alive to voice their desires, the courts strictly follow the will, which is why 99 percent of the cases pass through the probate without any issue.
However, if a beneficiary feels doubtful about the testator’s choice of asset distribution, they may challenge the validity of the will. For doing so, they must have what is known in legal terms “standing”. It means that the contesting individual must have a direct and existing interest, which would be significantly affected if the will is accepted by the court. The most common people to challenge a will include a spouse or a child who was excluded from the inheritance by the testator.
Here are some reasons that are most commonly used for contesting the validity of a will:
The Lack of Testamentary Capacity
Testamentary capacity refers to the mental soundness of the testator at the time of composing the will. It involves the testator to have a clear understanding of the following:
- The value and nature of the assets and property
- What a will means and its legal effect on the parties involved
- Who the beneficiaries of the will are and the consequences of excluding and including certain people
- How these elements relate with one another
To challenge a will based on the lack of testamentary capacity, you need to prove that the testator was not of sound mind at the time of the will’s creation. In this case, the testimony of the witnesses who were present at the time of signing is crucial.
Undue Influence or Fraud
If a court determines that the testator was pressured in any way to sign the will, it will be declared invalid. This usually involves a person with a position of trust, such as an adult child or a caregiver, manipulating the testator to leave a majority of their property and assets in their name. Some examples of undue influence include withheld medications, use of threats, or manipulated separation of the testator with the other members of their family.
Invalid Execution of the Will
All states have certain laws and provisions that govern the proper execution of a will. Mostly, a testator must sign their will in the presence of two witnesses. The witnesses are required to acknowledge the signing of the will and must be in the same room as the testator. Moreover, they must not be a beneficiary or gain any benefit from the will. If you think that these guidelines were not followed at the time of signing, you may challenge the validity of the will.
Contesting a will can be very difficult if there is no clear evidence to prove its invalidity. But if you think that you have solid grounds to challenge the will, you should hire a reliable and experienced estate planning attorney to intelligently represent your case. For more information about will contesting and its procedure, contact the Law Office of John C. Grundy at 330.637.9030 or online to schedule your consultation today.