Wills allow the deceased to have a personal say in how their possessions are distributed after death. Many times, a will is probated without any issues popping up. In some cases, however, someone may disagree with a provision before probate can become final. If someone takes legal action to protest the will, that is known as contesting the will. Read on to learn more.
A Serious Legal Matter
Before you decide to take legal action, speak to an estate planning lawyer. They understand estate laws in your state and can advise you on whether or not it's in your best interest to contest the will. Not only can you find out about your chances for success if you contest the will, but you might discover that you should not file a contest at all. Some people include clauses specifically addressing this issue in their wills. The clause can prohibit those who contest the will (for what might be frivolous reasons) from inheriting anything at all from the estate. If you believe the will to be invalid or unfair, however, you should proceed.
Why Should You Contest a Will?
You should not consider contesting a will because you think someone received a better inheritance than you did. The point of contesting a will is to bring something to the attention of the probate court so that they can make a determination as to the validity or legality of the will as it was written. Common legal reasons for contesting a will are:
- Fraud – One common way wills are fraudulent is they are not signed by the deceased. The signature is compared to that of the deceased to make that determination.
- Illegality – Wills cannot contain clauses that are not recognized as legal in that state. In some cases, wills that are created without legal assistance can fall into this category. For instance, some states don't allow the presence of conditions on inheritances. That might be when the deceased specifies that a beneficiary has to attend a certain college before they can be paid money for tuition.
- Incapacity – At the time the will is made, the deceased must be of sound mind. Otherwise, the entire will is invalid. You must be ready to show that the deceased was not capable of making sound decisions on the date the will was signed.
- Influenced – You can also contest a will if you feel the deceased was subject to undue influence. For example, if one sibling cared for the deceased before death and talked them into making biased changes to the will, that might a case for undue influence.
Speak to a will and estate planning attorney to learn more about this issue.