Something just did not seem right about your father’s will. Even well before his death, you sensed something amiss in his life despite living miles away and seeing him infrequently. His physical and mental health had been failing the decade. He became too trusting with certain people, including your brother who lived with him.
After locating a copy of your father’s will and reading through it, your suspicions are confirmed. It just does not pass the smell test. You knew your father, and you suspect coercion related to the will occurred. You consider your options, eventually determining that you must challenge the will.
Undue influence, forgery and fraud
There are a few critical reasons to challenge a will. Here are some of the more common and relevant reasons to contest a will:
- The lack of capacity: Any testator who creates and signs a will must have a firm understanding of what the document includes. Mental competency is a must. If your father lacked certain mental capacities, perhaps even having dementia, yet still forged on with creating a will, then you must challenge the will.
- Undue influence: A vulnerable person is a target who is easily influenced. Such a scenario may lead to a person – under the persuasion of deceitful individuals – signing a problematic document or being bullied into changing it.
- Forgery: Trickery is often a tool used by devious individuals who take advantage of vulnerable individuals, getting them to sign illegitimate documents that are wills.
- Fraud: A suspected fabricated document along with forged signatures on a will is cause for alarm. Think of one of the most notorious cases of will-related fraud involving reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes who died in 1976. A man named Melvin Dummar claimed that in 1967, he found a stranded Hughes in the Nevada desert and gave him a ride to Las Vegas. Upon Hughes’s death, Dummar unearthed a will that named him as a beneficiary of a good chunk of the billionaire’s estate. A jury did not believe Dummar or his story.
- Improper execution: A will’s creation and its details must comply with state law. California requires two witnesses to sign a will for it to be valid.
Even with a no-contest clause in place of a will, you can still challenge the document as long as you have reasonable cause. Any of the above reasons would fit the bill. If you suspect something is not right regarding your parent’s will, trust your instincts and fight for the truth.