At times, family members may believe that a will does not accurately reflect the wishes of their loved one. Family members who find themselves in this situation need to be aware of the situations in which it may be possible to challenge, or contest, a will.
When can a will be contested?
There are a few situations in which a will may be contested including:
- The will was not properly signed according to applicable state laws: state laws are particular and specific about how a will must be signed and witnessed. Oftentimes the will must be signed by the estate planner in the presence of two disinterested witnesses. If state requirements for executing a will are not met, it may be possible to contest the validity of a will. Failing to meet witness and signature requirements is the most common reasons a will may be found invalid.
- The estate planner lacked testamentary capacity to sign a will: estate planners must have testamentary capacity to execute a will. To have testamentary capacity to execute a will, the estate planner must understand the nature and extent of their assets and who will inherit those assets. They must also understand the legal impact of executing their will to dispose of their assets. Without testamentary capacity the will may be invalid.
- The estate planner was unduly influenced: estate planners can sometimes become susceptible to the influence of others. If the estate planner was subjected to extreme pressure that left them in severe duress to the extent they lost their free will and succumbed to their influence, they may have been unduly influenced and the will may not be valid.
- The will was procured by fraud: if the estate planner was tricked into signing the will, it may be considered to have been procured by fraud and may be invalid.
When a family members believes their loved one lacked testamentary capacity, was unduly influenced or the will was procured by fraud or did not meet state requirements, it may be possible to challenge its validity. Loved ones seeking to invalidate the will should be aware of when it may be possible to do so.