What Are the Legal Grounds for Challenging a Will?

Law Blog

After your loved one dies, you may find out that you're left out of their will. Sometimes, this exclusion doesn't require court intervention. However, if you were wrongfully excluded from the will, you can contest the validity of the testator's will.

Take a look at instances when you can legally contest a will.

The Testator Was Mentally Incompetent

If you can prove that the testator wasn't of sound mind when drafting or signing their will, a court may invalidate the will. You'll have to present evidence that proves the testator was unaware of their actions when they created the will.

If your lawyer can prove that your loved one didn't even know what they owned at the time of their will, you could build a strong case. You might have a stronger case if the testator was an elderly person with dementia or another medical condition that would make them mentally incompetent.

Your lawyer can gather evidence from the testator's doctors to prove mental incompetency. If the testator hadn't sought medical help, a competent contested will lawyer could use the testimony of an expert witness during the trial.

The Testator Was Under Duress 

A court may invalidate your loved one's will if you prove that the testator was coerced to draft and sign their will. Some examples of coercion include blackmailing, threats and physical force. So if the testator faced physical harassment or any other form of abuse, you could contest the existing will.

You also need to prove that the testator would never have signed their will if they weren't threatened or coerced. Your lawyer has to prove that under different circumstances, your loved one would have never excluded you from their will.

In most cases, coercion is difficult to prove unless there is physical evidence. For instance, if your loved one had a restraining order against the individual who threatened them, you may have a strong case. You'll likely need the help of a contested wills lawyer that can carefully review your case and present irrefutable proof.

The Will Wasn't Signed According to the State Laws 

Formalities that govern the role of witnesses during a will signing may vary from state to state. Your lawyer can tell you what state laws apply to your case.

Generally, at least two witnesses should be present during the signing of a will. Witnesses shouldn't have any reason to expect a reward or inheritance from the proceedings. So if you have reason to oppose the legality of a will, a qualified lawyer can help.

Some jurisdictions require that there also be another person who has some responsibility for overseeing the will's execution, such as a lawyer or court clerk. You should consult an experienced wills lawyer if you need specific information about your case.


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