Sometimes when an individual passes away and leaves a will, controversy arises over whether the will should be probated. Family members may find themselves being pitted against one another if the wishes described in a testator's will are disputed. While no one wants to find himself in the position of contesting a will, sometimes there are valid reasons to do so. If you believe that a will is invalid for one reason or another, and you are a potential beneficiary, it may be in your best interest to contest the will.
Who Can Contest a Will?
Before submitting a reason for contesting a will, is important to first know whether you are even eligible to contest. To be eligible, you must have some stake in the outcome of the will. Perhaps you are a beneficiary but feel that you should have been given a greater share, or maybe you were left out of the will entirely but believe you are entitled to be included or would have been included under intestacy laws. If you stand to gain financially from contesting a will, you will likely be permitted to submit a contest if you wish.
Criteria for Contest
There are several reasons that an eligible individual may contest a will. The valid reasons for opposing a will's probate include:
- Fraud: The supposed testator did not actually create the will being submitted, the signature of the testator was forged, or the testator was tricked into thinking that s/he was signing a different document other than a will.
- Undue Influence: Through blackmail, threat, bribery, or other influence, an individual convinced the testator to change his or her will or to write a will that benefited the offending individual over others.
- Mental incapacity: The testator was not "of sound mind" to write and/or sign the will.
- Improper procedure: The will does not meet the validity requirements as listed under state law. For example, the will was not signed by the testator or witnesses were not present.
If an individual can provide evidence that a will is invalid for any of the above reasons, the will may be declared invalid by the court. In this case, an earlier will draft may be admitted to probate or, if a different valid will draft doesn't exist, the estate may be divided according to state intestacy laws.
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