Losing a loved one is emotionally devastating. It’s normal to be unable to think about anything other than your grief and how to cope with the sudden void in your life. But, if your loved one left a will that seems suspect, or a would-be heir is unhappy with his or her share of the estate, be prepared to rise to the occasion and fight for what you believe to be your loved one’s true wishes.
While sometimes necessary, disputes over the validity or contents of a last will and testament are not raised in the majority of cases. Disputes generally only arise when an heir is surprised by terms in the will. In this article, we’ll discuss some issues to consider in deciding whether to challenge or defend a last will and testament.
Challenging the mental capacity of the deceased
Sometimes the argument is not over a particular term in the will, but whether or not the will is valid in the first place. For a will to be valid, among other requirements, the testator must be able to understand the effect of making a will, the nature and extent of his assets, the existence of family members and the terms in the will.
These questions frequently arise in cases where a person changed his will shortly before death, particularly if the changes mean some family members are dropped from the will entirely or an unrelated third party is added to the will as a significant heir.
Be prepared to present evidence to prove the deceased person’s state of mind at the time the will was signed.
Other potential will contest claims
Even if the mental status of the deceased is not at issue, there are many other claims that can be raised when disputing a will or its terms:
- Undue influence. This claim may be raised if an heir believes the deceased was pressured by another party into making the will or including certain terms in the will.
- Mistake or Fraud. In these claims, an heir argues the deceased mistakenly signed the will or was tricked into signing it.
- Improperly executed. An heir may assert the will was not executed in compliance with Texas law.
- Revoked. An heir may have a claim that the deceased revoked the will prior to death by destroying the will or executing a newer will.
Whether you are the unhappy heir or the one who believes the will should stand as it is, keep your loved one’s wishes in mind and seek legal advice quickly to avoid missing any legal deadlines.
Consult with an attorney knowledgeable in will contests
One of our experienced Texas probate litigation attorneys can explain the law related to your situation and recommend next steps. For more information about challenging or defending a will, call Peterson Law Group to arrange a meeting at 979-703-7014 or visit us online today.