Contesting a will can be a long, complex, and emotionally charged legal process that occurs when someone believes that the last will and testament of an individual who has died is invalid or unfair. There are various grounds on which a will can be challenged legally, each having different criteria attached. We will explore some common grounds for contesting wills here as well as reveal any key factors which might contribute to its successful challenge.
- Lack of Testamentary Capacity
A common ground for contesting wills is alleging that the deceased lacked testamentary capacity when creating it. Testamentary capacity refers to having mental and legal capacity in understanding what being made a will involves; to establish lack of testamentary capacity one must demonstrate that when creating the will, the testator did not fully understand: Their assets; What assets they had available.
Their natural beneficiaries (those whom logically should inherit). The effects of including or excluding certain beneficiaries. Medical records, witness testimonies and expert opinions can often be presented in support or refutation of claims related to testamentary capacity.
- Undue Influence
Undue influence occurs when someone exerts pressure or manipulates over a testator to produce an invalid will that does not reflect their true intentions. In order to successfully contest such wills on grounds of undue influence, one must demonstrate evidence such as:
Existence of a close, confidential relationship between the testator and his or her alleged influencer.
Suspicious circumstances surrounding the creation of the will. Evidence linking undue influence to provisions within it that favour this individual.
Contesting a will due to fraud requires providing evidence that it was created using false pretences or deceitful means, such as forging signatures, misrepresenting facts, or using coercion. In order to successfully contest such wills on this ground, clear proof must be presented of any acts of deceit that led up to its creation.
- Improper Execution Wills must fulfil certain legal requirements to be valid, and any will that does not comply with state requirements could be challenged as improper execution. Common problems include:
- Failing to have it properly witnessed.
- Incomplete or unclear will document.
- Missing testator signature or acknowledgment.
- Ambiguities or inconsistencies within will document.
A will may also be challenged on grounds of explicit or implicit revocation by its testator, whether explicit revocation includes creating a new will that explicitly revokes its predecessor or implied by destroying it with an intent of cancelling it outright.
Contesting a will can be an emotional legal matter, so it is vital that all involved understand the grounds upon which it can be challenged. From lack of testamentary capacity and undue influence to fraud, improper execution or revocation – it’s critical that evidence be collected as well as consulting experienced legal professionals when looking to challenge it. If you believe you have valid grounds to contest it then legal assistance should be sought to assist with the process and assess viability. Each will contest case is different so outcomes vary based on its specific circumstances and evidence presented during court battle.