Contesting a will can be extremely difficult and time-consuming. The person who is contesting the will must have a valid reason to contest. The will cannot be contested because the interested party believes the will to be unfair. There are laws that guide proving whether a will is invalid.
There are four basic legal reasons for contesting a will. The applicable laws can vary slightly from state to state, but the basic principles hold true for each.
The person who signed the will was tricked into signing. This can often happen when the elderly or sick don’t understand the documents put in front of them. The person receiving the bulk of the estate is often thought to be the party involved with the fraud.
The interested party who contests the will has to prove there was fraud. The burden of proof lies with the interested party. In a case involving fraud, it must be proven that the signer didn’t know what was being signed. It will involve calling witnesses who can testify to fraud.
At the end of a person’s life, they may be influenced to change their will through coercion or force. A caretaker may threaten or cajole the person to sign a new will where they are given the bulk of the inheritance.
The interested party would have to prove a claim of undue influence based on previous wills and witness testimony. Unfortunately, the person is deceased and can’t answer questions about the influence to sign a new will.
A will can be contested if the person had a mental deficiency at the end of their life when they drafted a new will. The mentally incompetent person might not have understood what he or she was doing when creating a new will.
The interested party would need medical records to prove mental incompetence. Witnesses can be called to speak to the person’s mental capacity and behavior.
In almost every state, the witnesses and signer have to be in the same room at the same time. The witnesses have to see the will being signed and understand what they are witnessing.
An unfair will isn’t necessarily a will that can be contested unless there is legal reason to claim the will is invalid. These four listed criteria are the only reasons for which the will can be contested. An interested party must make a claim against the will as soon as possible to start an investigation.