Someone’s will or estate plan determines the legacy that they leave when they die. The instructions left by your parents or another family member will decide who inherits what property from their estate. Most of the time, people simply feel fortunate to receive an inheritance and may very well know what their loved one intends for them to receive long before someone dies.
Other times, there is confusion or even distress at the instructions revealed during the reading of someone’s will. In a scenario where the estate plan seems to majorly deviate from someone’s prior statements or previous will, family members may want to contest the will.
What kinds of allegations may give someone grounds to pursue a will contest in probate court?
Does the document seem illegitimate or altered in some way? Do you suspect that someone forged a signature or falsified notary marks? Fraud could involve completely fake documents or someone lying to and tricking the testator during the estate planning process. Allegations of fraud are among the most common reasons people contest a loved one’s will.
When a family member disinherits multiple people or reduces what they will receive from the estate to benefit one person in particular, there are often questions about whether that person applied undue influence to the testator. Especially when the person who benefits from late changes to an estate plan was also a caregiver for the testator, the family may have reason to suspect undue influence and to contest the will.
Lack of testamentary capacity
Some people decide to change their estate documents later in life because their personality changes. Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease reduce someone’s ability to make logical decisions and can alter the way that they view the world. If someone makes alterations to their estate planning documents when they lack the testamentary capacity to do so, the courts may not uphold those documents during litigation.
There are certain laws that apply to estates, including laws about the rights of specific individuals, like spouses. When the terms included in a will or estate plan violate state law, beneficiaries can contest the will based on those illegal terms.
Those who initiate probate litigation often do so because they want to see the true intended legacy of a deceased loved one upheld. Learning more about when you can contest a will can help you decide if you have grounds to initiate probate litigation.