Often, a will goes through the probate process and the estate is closed without issue. Sometimes, however, the beneficiaries of the will want to challenge it, known as a will contest.
If the beneficiaries are unhappy with their share of the deceased person’s assets, that alone is usually not enough to contest it. There are common situations, however, where it may be possible to invalidate the will.
Signature and capacity
The will must be signed by the person who created it and it must be witnessed. If the will is not signed or executed properly under state law requirements, the court may find that it is invalid.
Also, the person who created the will must have had testamentary capacity. This means that he or she understood the value of the estate assets, who should inherit them and how signing the will would accomplish this. In some situations, the witnesses to the will can provide insight about the deceased person’s capacity.
If the deceased person was deemed to be incapacitated by a physician close to the time the will was signed, that may be used as evidence of a lack of testamentary capacity.
Undue influence and fraud
If the person who created the will was under extreme pressure or duress to sign it, the will may be invalidated. Usually, these actions involve behavior more serious than verbal abuse. They could include isolating the person from his or her friends or threating the person.
Also, if the person was told that the document he or she was signing was a power of attorney, a deed or a similar instrument but instead was signing a will, it may be invalidated due to fraud. To prove fraud, it may be necessary to have the witnesses to the will explain what the deceased person thought he or she was signing.
If beneficiaries have questions about contesting a will or related estate questions, an experienced attorney can help.