Are you a student? If you are obtaining the education in the field of law & legal matters, then you might come across the term “will contest” at some point in your student life. In addition to its theoretical aspects, it is important to consider the practical aspects of this topic as well. In this post, we will help you understand all that you need to know about a will contest.
What is a Will Contest?
The last testament or will is a legal document that goes on to specify who inherits the property & real estate assets of the deceased person and who will be responsible for settling the entire estate. Will contests amongst family members, in this case, serve to be the typical forms of a lawsuit that aims at invalidating the last testament or will of the deceased individual.
Most of the individuals file the will contest in case they are not satisfied that the mentioned family member or friend might be able to reflect the last wishes of the deceased person properly. However, it is important to note that will contests can be expensive and extremely emotionally exhaustive. Even if someone wishes to contest a particular will after all the hardships, then here are some important points to consider:
Determining the Stand to Contest a Will
It is not possible for everyone to contest a will. In terms of the legal studies, only an individual or entity, like the charity or bank, has the proper standing to contest a will. With respect to the contesting of a will, the term “standing” implies that the given party that is involved in the particular lawsuit will be affected personally by the results of the case. It implies that the individual who will be contesting the will must be either a beneficiary or some intestate heir who has been named in the prior will of the decedent. As far as the entity is concerned, it must be named either as a fiduciary or a beneficiary in the prior will of the decedent.
If an individual does not have proper standing, then he or she cannot proceed with contesting the will.
Determining the Timely Filing of the Contest
Even with a proper standing towards contesting a will, the individual must file the same in a timely manner. The specific timing is dictated by the particular state laws wherein the decedent resided at the time of death for filing the given will contest. The timing can range from some weeks to even a few years.
Usually, only a limited time limit is granted for contesting a will such that the payment of the overall expenses along with the transferring of the property to the respective beneficiaries is expedited easily.
Determining the Grounds for Contesting a Will
Even when the individuals might have a proper standing along with ample time limit for contesting the will, they must also possess sufficient grounds for doing the same. Usually, there are four grounds to contest a will. These are:
- The particular will was not signed following the proper legal formalities
- The decedent did not have the proper mental capacity towards making the last will or testament
- The decedent had been unduly influenced towards making the given will
- The will was made out of some fraudulent activity
It turns out to be immensely difficult to prove any of the grounds mentioned above. In such a case, the individual might have to consult some professional attorney or a probate lawyer specializing in estate litigation towards determining if he or she has ample evidence to contest the given will.
Factors Leading to a Successful Will Contest
The process of invalidation of the given will is not very simple. This is because if there is an assumption that the particular person took ample time to create the will, then it could be proven valid. Here are some factors that could lead to a successful will contest:
- The will turns out to be a “do-it-yourself” testament: When the testator writes the will on his or her own, then some specific legal formalities towards making it valid might have been overlooked.
- The testator has been isolated from the family: One of the most common instances in successful contesting of a will is in the case when the particular testator has been separated from the family & friends as one of the primary beneficiaries of the given will. This could lead to the invalidation of the will on the basis of undue influence while creating the will.
- The capacity of the testator is questioned: While it might turn out to be difficult to prove the point that the testator lacked the mental capacity to create the will the time he or she had signed it, there could be some form of medical or additional evidence showing the incapability of the testator.