While a will is typically the final word on a person’s wishes concerning their estate, there are reasons why this legally binding document may be contested.
Setting the Stage for a Will Contest
Understanding the various reasons to contest a will is crucial to determine if such a course of action is feasible, necessary, or worth the potential strain on personal relationships and resources.
Unveiling the Will Contest
A will contest is a legal objection raised against the validity of a will, typically by potential beneficiaries or those who would have inherited it if the will didn’t exist. But merely being unhappy with the share of the inheritance is not a valid reason to contest a will.
Legitimate Will Contesting Reasons
Legitimate reasons must be based on specific grounds that, if proven, render the will invalid. Here are some of the most common reasons to contest a will:
Reason 1: Lack of Testamentary Capacity
One of the most common reasons to contest a will is the allegation that the testator, the person making the will, lacked testamentary capacity.
This means that they did not fully understand the implications of making a will, the extent of the assets they were distributing, or the beneficiaries of their estate. Reasons being evidence of dementia, Alzheimer’s, or other mental impairments can be instrumental in such contests.
Reason 2: Undue Influence
Undue influence occurs when the testator is coerced, manipulated, or pressured into writing their will in a particular way. This reason might involve exploiting a position of trust, using threats, or applying other forms of psychological pressure.
If you can demonstrate that someone exerted undue influence over the testator, you may have a valid reason to contest the will.
Reason 3: Fraudulent Wills
A will can be contested if there is a reason to believe that the document is fraudulent. This can happen if the testator was tricked into signing the will, perhaps under the impression that they were signing a different type of document.
Alternatively, a will might be wholly forged, with someone else fraudulently creating and signing a will on behalf of the testator.
Reason 4: Improper Execution
Every jurisdiction has specific legal formalities that must be followed for a will to be valid. These include the requirement for the will to be in writing, signed by the testator, and witnessed by a certain number of competent witnesses.
If these legal formalities are not adhered to, there is a reason for the will to be contested on the grounds of improper execution.
Reason 5: Revoked Wills
If a newer, valid will is found after the testator’s death, it could supersede and revoke the previous will. In some cases, the testator might have also destroyed the original will with the intention of revoking it.
If there is reason to believe that the will has been revoked, it is possible to contest the will on this basis.
Reason 6: Unfair Provisions and Lack of Provision
In some jurisdictions, certain provisions of a will can be contested if they have reasons to believe to be inherently unfair or if the will fails to adequately provide for certain parties.
Usually, these parties are the testator’s spouse or minor children. However, contesting a will for unfair provisions requires a thorough understanding of the specific legal principles in your jurisdiction.
Contesting a Will – Constitute Thorough Reasoning
While there are valid reasons to contest a will, it’s not a decision to be taken lightly. The process can be emotionally exhausting, and financially draining, and can lead to long-lasting family disputes.
Therefore, it’s recommended to seek professional legal advice to understand the process, weigh the potential costs and benefits, and assess the strength of your reason before deciding to contest a will.