Generally speaking, it is very difficult to successfully challenge a will. Only about 1% of wills become tied up in probate because of a legal challenge to their validity. Since the decedent is not alive to state his intentions regarding distribution of the estate, the will is seen as the voice of the testator, and as such is valued above a challenge unless significant evidence is brought to bear. If you wish to challenge a will, it is in your best interests to work with a Bryan probate attorney.
Who Can Challenge a Will?
Anyone with a legal interest in the will has a right to challenge it. While a challenge can come from family members or friends who are named as beneficiaries, spouses are most often successful in such endeavors. When a will is successfully challenged, it may completely be nullified, or a portion of it may be voided. When the former occurs, the probate court will rule on distribution of the property in the same way it would if the decedent had died intestate.
What Grounds Can Be Used to Challenge a Will?
The grounds under which a will can be challenged are fairly limited. It is not enough that a person is unhappy with how the estate is to be distributed, or that the testator presumably promised certain items verbally. The following are the major ways through which you may be able to challenge a will successfully:
- The testator lacked testamentary capacity. You might argue that at the time the will in question was created the decedent had senility, dementia, insanity, was under the influence of medication, or in some other way lacked the mental capacity to make reasoned decisions. Age can be used as an argument against testamentary capacity, as well, if the decedent was a minor. Be careful, though. Often when a minor marries or joins the military he will be considered as having such testamentary capacity.
- The testator was unduly influenced. This is a problem that often occurs with older individuals. There are many unscrupulous individuals who will supposedly befriend such an elderly person, but with the dubious intention of convincing the victim to leave a house, bank account, or life insurance policy to them.
- Fraud or forgery was committed. If the will was created and/or signed by another, and without the knowledge of the testator, this is not only grounds for nullification of the will, but can be a felony criminal offense.
- Another will exists which supersedes this one. When a new will is created, the previous, outdated one is supposed to be destroyed. However, this does not always occur. The newest will voids any previous ones unless it is not created properly. It is worth noting that this is why it is so important that a will be dated.
For Further Information or Legal Assistance
If you have reason to believe that a will that is being probated is invalid, contact a Bryan probate attorney for help with challenging it. Call Peterson Law Group today at 979-703-7014 or 936-337-4681.