In most cases, the wishes of the deceased in a will are followed to the letter. You can, however, mount a challenge if you disagree with any aspect of a will. The probate process provides a legal process for contesting a last will and testament but you may only want to proceed under certain circumstances. Read on to find out more about contesting a will.
Why Would Anyone Contest a Will?
Just because you disagree with how the deceased bequeathed their property is no reason to challenge the will. Last wills and testaments are legal instruments and you must have a legal reason to contest it. You should also realize that challenging a will could delay the probate process by several months and until all issues are resolved no beneficiary will receive their inheritance. Listed below are a few common reasons people use when contesting a will. Only proceed with your challenge under the support and guidance of a probate lawyer.
- Not of Sound Mind – This legal challenge is based on the mental or physical fitness of the testator (the author of the will). You must be prepared to bring forth proof of the mental capacity of the testator on the date the will was signed and that usually involves the testimony of a medical or mental health professional practitioner who was treating the testator.
- Invalid Signature – Wills must be written in a certain way and requirements for signatures and witnesses to the signatures exist in every state. The probate court will see to it that the will is legal but you may have to show proof that the signature is not of the deceased and that is not easy. If it can be shown that the signature is forged, that is considered fraud.
- Errors – Wills may contain misspellings that can often be overlooked by the probate court. When the misspelling creates a problem, however, the will can be contested. For example, if a distant nephew is in line to inherit what appears to be the rightful inheritance of a brother with a similarly-spelled name, a review might be in order.
- Undue Influence – This is a common complaint of those contesting a will. The ill and the elderly can be vulnerable targets for those who want to manipulate them. Particularly when the direct caregiver is left more than their fair share of the estate, undue influence should be examined.
Before You Contest a Will
Having legal counsel is vital before you make a move to challenge a will. Some wills contain clauses that explicitly exclude those who contest it for frivolous reasons. Speak to a wills or probate law attorney to find out more.