Dealing with a loved one's death can be distressing, and the entire process can tax anyone. In some cases, though, the stress of dealing with a passing can be made worse once the last will and testament is read. It's not uncommon for loved ones to feel left out and hurt as a result of what is revealed by the will. Those unhappy with the results of a will may be able to file a legal protest. Read on to find out more about contesting a will.
Before You Act: Speak to an Attorney
Don't be too hasty when contesting a will. If you feel that something is amiss with your loved one's will, get in touch with a probate lawyer and get some good professional advice. State law determines the probate and estate process and what you might have heard is not always the case in your state. For example, in some states, a clause in the will might prove a deterrent to taking action by leaving anyone who contests the will out of it entirely.
Reasons To Contest a Will
While probate varies quite a bit from state to state, those contesting a will have to prove more than just hurt feelings about an inheritance. Below is a summary of some common issues that might prompt a will contest.
- Fraud – This is when you suspect that the will does not represent the wishes of the deceased. One of the first and primary responsibilities of the probate court is to determine the validity of the will. That means the signature (and witnesses, if required) are verified as being valid and true.
- Undue Influences – Using tricks, lies, force, or manipulation that results in a benefit from the will may cause the will to be invalid. One example of this type of influence is caregivers (either relatives or professionals) that spend a great deal of time with a loved one before their death, resulting in changes in a will or other estate provisions.
- Incapacitated – "Of sound mind" is more than just a phrase in a will. Those who create or change a will must be judged (by the lawyer and by those who witness the signing) to be of a sufficient mental state to understand what they are doing. Some common causes of incapacity include medical conditions, mental conditions, being under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and more.
If something seems off with your loved one's will, speak to a probate lawyer for help and advice before taking action.