In the event that a decedent has a valid will in place, the will proceeds through the probate process and, eventually, the assets of the estate are distributed to the beneficiaries according to the terms of the will. Sometimes, however, the validity of a will is questioned. In this case, a person may want to contest the validity of the will. In other words, the person wants to challenge whether the will is valid and should go through probate. Here is what you should know about will contests.
What to Know About Will Contests
Not just anyone can bring a will contest action. To contest a will, a person must have legal standing to bring the action in the first place. To have legal standing to bring the will contest action, the person must fall into one of three categories. First, the person could be a beneficiary under the contested will. Second, the person could be a beneficiary under a previous version of the decedent’s will. Third, the person could be a beneficiary under the state’s laws of intestacy. If a person falls into one of those three categories, then they have legal standing to bring a will contest action.
Next, the person contesting the will must have legal grounds to contest the will. Unfairness alone will not suffice as valid grounds to bring such an action. There are a number of legal grounds upon which a will may be challenged. For instance, it could be asserted that the testator lacked the capacity necessary to execute a valid will. Alternatively, it could be asserted that the required formalities were not observed in executing the will. It may also be asserted that there was undue influence or coercion in creating the terms of the will.
And so, a person contesting a will needs standing. They need legal grounds. Last, but certainly not least, they need substantial evidence to support the legal grounds for the will contest that they have asserted. A court will need solid evidence to support such an assertion. In most cases, courts will defer to a will as the true intentions of the testator and will be extremely reluctant to mess with those intentions. This is why a person bringing a will contest action will need strong evidence to successfully bring such an action. Gathering evidence to support a will contest action can be difficult as the testator is, of course, already deceased at this point and would be a key witness in many assertions made in common will contest actions.
Estate Planning Attorneys
Do you suspect the will of a loved one is invalid? If so, talk to the knowledgeable team of estate planning attorneys at Jones, Gregg, Creehan & Gerace. We can discuss your options going forward and determine if contesting the will is the best course of action Contact us today.