Dealing with the death of a loved one is never easy, but having to content their will can make things even harder. When you dispute or contest a will, it simply means that you are legally challenging the legitimacy of the document in probate court.
If a dispute is successful, the court will act according to the local state probate law. It is doubtful that an argument will be successful because you disagree with what’s contained in the document. To successfully contest a will, you need to prove that the will is not legally valid. Here’s what you need to know.
When Can You Contest a Will?
There are certain legal and valid circumstances where a beneficiary is in the proper position to contest a will. Let’s take a look:
To create a valid, legal will, the following is required:
- The testator should be of legal age.
- The testator should have intended to create a “testamentary intent” document.
- The will must include the signature of the testator. There should also be at least two witness signatures, depending on the state’s laws where the will was constructed.
- The terms, conditions, and desired distribution of assets should be written or created by the testator himself/herself without coercion or influence from another party.
Beneficiaries or concerned parties can contest a will for the reason of incapacity. A will is not legally admissible in court if the testator does not have “testamentary capacity” when the will is created. This means that the testator must have the following understanding:
- That they are creating a will as a document intended to be legally enforced at the time of their passing
- The property they own, the value of the said property, and their legal rights to all property and the advisement of its distribution when they die
- The terms of the will that’s created and all parties listed as beneficiaries of the will
If a testator does not have the suitable mental capacity to create a will, it will not be considered a legal and valid document in the court’s eyes. For example, if a person has a condition that impairs their mental capacity, such as Alzheimer’s or dementia, they are not legally capable of creating a will.
Undue influence refers to the forcing of an individual to make a will. If it is believed that someone forced your loved one to create a will and to add specific conditions that benefit the accused, you have grounds to contest a will.
How Do You Contest a Will?
Any person directly involved with the will, with a financial interest in the assets of a will (heir or beneficiary) or any other concerned party, can file a petition with the probate court to contest a will. If you plan on contesting a will, it’s a good idea to hire an experienced probate litigation attorney. They have the experience necessary to determine if you have a valid, legal reason to contest the will. They can also help you petition the court appropriately.
Contact Derryberry & Associates Today to Discuss Your Case
If you feel you have grounds to contest a will, we’re here to help. Contact Derryberry & Associates LLP today to schedule an appointment with our Palmdale probate lawyers.