An experienced estate planning lawyer can help you take steps to try to ensure the orderly distribution of your estate. Unfortunately, when it comes to property and inheritance, there are times when someone will expend a substantial amount of energy to manipulate or influence a loved one to make a last will and testament which benefits them at the expense of the decedent’s intended beneficiaries. Often, it’s done at a time when that loved one is particularly vulnerable. There are ways, however, that you can challenge the validity of a will, in what is known as a “will contest.” Here are some of the grounds for contesting a will:
- Fraud or misrepresentation — More often than not, this happens when the person executing the will signs a will, believing it to be some other type of document. The law requires that the person signing the will know what the document is and what it seeks to accomplish
- Undue influence — If you can demonstrate that one of the beneficiaries put undue pressure on the testator (the person executing the will)to obtain a benefit under a will, you may be able to have the will nullified for undue influence. Courts will look to see if there was a confidential relationship between the beneficiary and the testator and if there are suspicious circumstances surrounding the will.
- Lack of capacity — A testator must have testamentary capacity to execute a last will and testament. The Court will look to see if the testator knew the natural objects of his bounty, if he knew his assets and if he understood how his will disposes of his property.
- Failure to meet formalities required by law — Each state has requirements regarding the manner in which a last will and testament must be executed. This includes the requisite number of witnesses to the will.
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