Losing a loved one is not easy and finding out that you dispute the terms of their will upon their death is even more distressing. When this happens, you may want to pursue a will contest. The following are some grounds upon which a will can be contested.
The will was not executed in accordance with state law
Every state has specific laws regarding how a will must be executed. For example, the will must be signed by your loved one in the presence of a certain number of witnesses. The witnesses must also sign the will in the presence of one another. Failure to follow state law could be a reason to pursue a will contest.
Lack of testamentary capacity
To properly execute a will, your loved one must have the ability to understand the extent of their estate, who their natural heirs are and what it means to execute and sign a will. If your loved one suffered from a condition such as dementia or Alzheimer’s they may not have the mental capacity to execute a valid will. This can be difficult to prove, as even a person who is starting to decline mentally may still have the capacity to understand the basics of executing a will.
Undue influence and duress
Oftentimes a loved one is physically and mentally weak when they execute a will. Some people will exploit this condition and will influence your loved one to execute a will that is unduly lopsided in their favor. This could be the case if they imposed such extreme pressure that your loved one lost their free will and only executed the will under severe duress. You may need to show that the influencer was in contact with your loved one’s attorney, paid to have the will executed or isolated your loved one.
Sometimes your loved one is duped into executing a will. This may happen if your loved one is presented with a document that they are told is something else such as a deed or a different estate planning document when it is in fact a will. Your loved one may sign the document, not knowing it was a will. This means the will was fraudulent and cannot be enforced.
Will contests must be resolved by the court before the probate process can proceed. If you suspect your loved one’s will is invalid, you may want to pursue a will contest.