Let’s face it. Things can get messy and complicated after the death of a loved one. Emotions often run high. People are stressed. Families will have to confront some difficult realities. On top of all of this, there are logistics that need to be navigated after the passing of a loved one. There are probate proceedings to contend with and formalities to observe. Everything may be further complicated if someone chooses to pursue a will contest action. Whether their concerns are grounded in reality or on emotions like resentment or jealousy, there are people who may seek to have a will declared void, in whole or in part. Here is what you need to know about will contest actions.
What Happens in a Will Contest Action?
It is worth noting first and foremost that not just anyone can bring a will contest action. In order to contest a will, a person must have legal standing to bring the action in the first place. Those who have standing to contest a will are those beneficiaries that would inherit under the current will or those that would benefit if the will were invalidated. Those that would benefit if the will were invalidated would include those that would inherit under a state’s intestacy laws or those that would benefit from a previous version of the current will.
Legal standing, in and of itself, will not be enough to bring a will contest action. The person bringing the action must have legal grounds to contest the will. Unfairness in treatment alone will not suffice for this purpose. There are a number of legally recognized grounds for contesting a will, but unfairness on its face is not one of them. Some valid grounds for contesting a will include:
- Undue influence
- Lack of testamentary capacity
- Forgery or fraud
- Failure to observe formalities in executing the will
- Material ambiguity
In order to substantiate these grounds and have a will overturned in whole or in part, the person contesting the will must be able to present the court with solid evidence, including testimony from witnesses. Courts usually grant a will great deference as it is seen as the voice of the testator. As such, courts will need to be presented with substantial evidence that would demonstrate the need for the will to be invalidated. If there are suspicious circumstances surrounding the will, such as a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or other degenerative disease that would put testamentary capacity into question, this can also help strengthen the will contest claim.
Are you considering contesting a will? Are you involved in probate proceedings where a will contest action is being threatened? Get dedicated legal counsel by your side to help you through what can be a very challenging time for you and your family. The trusted estate planning and probate attorneys at E.A. Goodman Law are here for you. Contact us today.
Posted in: Wills