Three lead attorneys at Livens & Reed, PLLC

Medicaid And Estate Planning Attorneys
Helping You Achieve
Peace Of Mind

Medicaid And Estate Planning Attorneys
Helping You Achieve
Peace Of Mind
Three lead attorneys at Livens & Reed, PLLC
  1. Home
  2.  » 
  3. Probate Litigation
  4.  » 3 of the top reasons for contesting wills in probate court

3 of the top reasons for contesting wills in probate court

On Behalf of | May 20, 2024 | Probate Litigation |

Will are often the cornerstone of estate plans, as they are popular and highly-effective testamentary instruments. However, there are some scenarios in which families may question the terms included in a will. In fact, they may even take legal action in contesting a will. A successful will contest in probate court could lead to the courts setting aside someone’s will, in favor of an alternative arrangement.

Will contests can be beneficial for those concerned about the terms of an estate plan, but they are ultimately something testators planning for their passing prefer to avoid. The courts typically only hear contests for a limited number of specific legal reasons. The following are the most common grounds for contesting or challenging a will in probate court.

Invalid documents or illegal terms

Some people do not have proper witness signatures on their wills. They draft a handwritten will that they sign themselves without the two witnesses required by state law. Other people might include terms that violate probate statutes. When there are valid reasons to question the legality of a will, people may contest the document in probate court.

A lack of testamentary capacity

Almost anyone who is a legal adult theoretically has the option of creating an estate plan, but some people cannot create legally-binding documents. A lack of testamentary capacity could be the result of severe mental illness, dementia or age-related cognitive decline. If someone is incapable of recalling what assets they have, knowing who their beneficiaries are or understanding the impact of the documents they sign, any paperwork they create while in that condition may not hold up under scrutiny in the probate courts.

Allegations of undue influence

Even those who have testamentary capacity may not be in a position to draft legally valid documents. If an outside party who has a relationship with the testator manipulates or otherwise influences them, that could undermine the usefulness of their will. The undue influence of a spouse or a caregiver could lead to changes in estate planning terms that benefit that individual while depriving other beneficiaries of the inheritance someone intended to leave them.

Knowing what may trigger will contests can help people determine when filing a lawsuit might be reasonable. Those who understand the grounds necessary for will contests can more effectively protect their interest in an estate, if such legal action becomes appropriate.

Archives

Livens & Reed, PLLC