Losing someone you love is painful enough without worrying about the legal process that typically follows. There is paperwork to file, assets to locate, creditors to pay and distributions to make. These tasks can be more complicated than one might expect, particularly if there are concerns about the legitimacy of a person’s will.
Under these circumstances, parties may want to explore the options for contesting the will to have the courts set it aside. If you are in this position, you should know how to contest a will and whether doing so is the right answer.
Grounds for contesting a will
A person must have a financial interest in a person’s estate and a valid reason to contest a will. In other words, merely disagreeing with the terms or being unsatisfied will typically not be sufficient grounds for successfully challenging a will.
As long as a will is valid, courts will often enforce it. With some exceptions, a valid will must be:
- Legally accurate
- Completed by someone older than 18
- Signed in front of witnesses
- Reflective of the will maker’s true wishes
Therefore, grounds to contesting a will might include:
- Claims of mental incapacity
- Allegations of undue influence
- Forgery or unsigned wills
- Legal violations or unlawful clauses
Outside of these situations, contesting a will may not be an option.
Should I contest the will?
If you believe that you have grounds to contest the will, you will want to consider whether doing so is the right answer.
Before deciding, you should know what the process entails. Contesting a will can result in legal delays; it can create rifts between family members; it has a financial toll. In some cases, the cost of prevailing in contesting a will may be too high.
That said, a will should align with the decedent’s wishes. It should be free from undue influence by others. A will should be fair and enforceable. If it is not, contesting a will could be the right option for your situation.