Many people create an estate plan with the intent that it will be fully carried out after they pass away. However, wills may be contested. This means that a person disputes that the will is valid.
Reasons to contest a will
While the specific reasons a will is contested depends on the specific will, there are several common situations that are helpful to understand.
Lack of capacity means that the person creating the will did not understand the nature of their property or the impact of their decisions. This may apply where a person has mental illness or was subjected to undue influence. Undue influence means that they were coerced by a person in authority to make certain decisions in their will. These are two reasons to contest a will.
If the will was not correctly signed and witnessed or was created fraudulently by forgery, those are other reasons it may be contested. Disputes can also occur if the will terms are open to interpretation.
Usually, the beneficiaries or heirs have a right to contest the will, but there are time limits to do so. They will need to petition the court and state the reasons for contesting the will. All interested parties will be given notice and will have an opportunity to go to court and provide statements.
Sometimes, the parties will attempt to resolve their dispute through mediation. However, they have the option to go to court to present evidence in front of a judge. The judge will decide the outcome.
If a person needs help with contesting a will or estate planning in general, there is assistance available.