When a parent, grandparent, or spouse passes away, it can be a stressful and emotional time. What can make it more painful is learning that their will either leaves you out entirely or doesn’t give you what you thought you were going to receive.
You don’t want to seem greedy, but you might be confused or even hurt. But what can you do? Can you even fight against a will?
Grounds for contesting a will
You can’t contest a will because you disagree with what it says. However, it is possible to fight a will, although it can be incredibly challenging. As wills hold the final wishes of the deceased who can no longer speak for themselves, courts will favor the will’s provisions over anything else.
That’s not to say you cannot successfully contest a will. These are five common reasons to pursue contesting a will:
- Fraud or forgery – Wills created under false pretenses are invalid. If the testator – the person who signs the will – was tricked into signing a will, that will would become invalid. Likewise, if someone forges a signature on a will, it is also void.
- Doesn’t follow state laws – Every state has specific requirements surrounding wills. For example, a will in California requires two witnesses when the testator signs the will. If you can prove that the will does not comply with these regulations, you may have grounds to contest it.
- Lacking testament capacity – Testament capacity refers to the testator’s ability to execute a will and fully understand all the details surrounding the will, including their property and disposal of property. You can contest a will if you supply sufficient evidence that shows the testator did not understand the provisions of the will, such as if they have dementia or other illness that affected their memory and mind.
- Undue influence – Similarly to the above, if the testator was unduly influenced by an attorney or family member into signing a will, you have grounds to contest it. You must prove that someone pressured your loved one to create and sign a will that went against their wishes.
- There’s a newer will – A new will can trump an outdated will. If you discover a new will at any point after the death of your loved one, you should bring it forward. If the new will is current, it should effectively void the earlier will.
If you believe any part of your loved one’s will is incorrect or invalid, you should consider consulting with a knowledgeable estate planning attorney. The process of contesting a will can be complicated, and an attorney can help gather evidence and lead you through all the steps.