4 Reasons Why Someone Might Contest a Will

Film industry aficionados may imagine that Will contests are both frequent and dramatic. In reality, of course, it is much more difficult to raise an objection against selected provisions of a Will, and even harder to contest in its entirety. The process in which both the authenticity and the validity of a Will are proven is called probate and it is conducted by a judge in a court. During a formal hearing, certain interested parties can raise their objections regarding the Will. However, the law specifies both who has a right to contest a Will, as well as specific reasons to do so. In this blog, we will discuss 4 of them.

Who Can Contest a Will?

As mentioned, not everyone can contest a Will. The law gives such right only to parties directly influenced by its contest – persons who could potentially benefit in a decedent’s estate. The list of individuals who are legally capable of filing a lawsuit to contest a Will include:

  • disinherited heirs-at-law (that is, close family members of the decedent who could have a share in the estate had the decedent left no Will)
  • beneficiaries named in a prior Will
  • a fiduciary or executor named in a prior Will

Reason 1: Lack of Testamentary Capacity

Testamentary capacity means, first, that only adults 18 years of age or older are capable to create a legally binding Will and, second, that a person who creates a Will must be in their sound mind. A person suffering from a mental disorder, dementia, or senility may not have had the mental capacity to create a legally binding Will. The same holds true for a person who drew up a Will under influence of alcohol, drugs, or other psychoactive substances. However, to contest a Will on the basis of a lack of testamentary capacity, the objector must prove that the testator (the person who created the Will) didn’t understand the consequences of making it. For example, the testator may not have understood the extent and value of the property, who the heirs and beneficiaries are, or the process of the distribution of property after his or her death.

Reason 2: Formal Deficiencies

This may refer to a failure to adhere to federal or state laws regulating how a valid Will should be created. For example, in Florida, a Will must be signed in the presence of two witnesses. Although Florida law doesn’t specify that these witnesses must be unrelated to the testator or that they must not be mentioned in the Will as interested parties, it is best to use two uninterested parties to avoid any potential conflict of interest.

Reason 3: Undue Influence

Many people draft their Wills at an age when they have become weakened physically, mentally, and emotionally. As such, they may be prone to become influenced, manipulated, or coerced into including in their testament provisions that are contrary to their real wishes and according to those of a manipulator. However, it is important to note that, according to the law, undue influence means that the testator lost his or her free will in making the decisions stated in the Will. Therefore, proving that a person has been persuaded to include a certain provision in the testament usually won’t be enough to contest a Will.

Reason 4: Fraud or Forgery

Fraud means that the testator was tricked into signing a document that they thought was their Will but, in reality, was written by someone else or tampered with. Forgery refers to producing a completely false document in order to deceive a court and the interested parties.

Do You Have Reasons to Contest a Will?

Raising an objection to the contents of a Will is a serious step. If you are an interested party in the probate process and, after reading this article, you believe you have valid reasons to contest a Will, it may be wise to consult an experienced probate attorney and discuss your options. On the other hand, if you are a beneficiary of a Will that has been contested on grounds that don’t seem valid to you, you may want to learn what defenses are available for you. In any case, contact Schlegel Livingston, LLC to obtain the best advice regarding probate litigation options you may want to pursue.

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Schlegel Livingston LLC

Schlegel Livingston, LLC is an established real estate and probate/estate planning law firm in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. We pride ourselves on being a very hands-on law office who will help our clients by any means necessary.

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