Elizabethtown Probate Attorney
A will contest is a formal objection raised against the validity of a will and is based on the contention that the will does not reflect the actual intent of the testator (person who created the will). Will contests are not uncommon events, especially in the field of estate litigation. In general, will contests will focus on the assertion that the testator was either acting under undue influence, insane delusion, or that he or she lacked testamentary capacity, or that the testator was the subject of fraud. A will contest will often arise when a "death bed" will has been executed, which is one that is executed in the dying person's last days or even hours before death.
Typically, those who contest the validity of a will fall into two classes of persons: 1) those that are named as beneficiaries in a will, and 2) those who would inherit from the testator if the will is proven to be invalid. In most jurisdictions the party contesting the will is known as the "contestant." A person has grounds to contest a will only if he or she is an interested party; for example, the contestant has an economic interest in the estate and would be adversely affected if the will was admitted into probate.
At the time the will is offered to probate, the proponent of the will has the burden of proving that the will was executed correctly and in accordance with standard procedures. At times, upon reviewing the instrument, one or more beneficiaries may be unsatisfied with the testator's bequests. If the challenge over the will's execution occurs after the will has been admitted to probate, then the burden of proof is now transferred over to the contestants. This legal remedy is called a "will contest," where the contestants attempt to discredit the will on any one or more grounds, some of which commonly involve:
- The testator lacked mental capacity
- Insane delusion
- Undue influence (substituting another person's will in place of the testator)
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Even the closest families can have bitter arguments and disputes over will contests, and this is especially the case where blended families and second or subsequent marriages exist. One way to avoid having your own heirs contest a will is by keeping it updated, especially whenever there is a major change such as a divorce, a death, birth or remarriage in the family. Another such way is to clearly communicate your intentions with your heirs ahead of time while you're still of sound mind and able to express your wishes.
Will contests, unfortunately, are not uncommon occurrences. Whether you are an executor of an estate or a beneficiary, if you believe there is a problem with a will, we encourage you to contact an Elizabethtown estate litigation attorney from
Cooper & Cooper Law Offices for advice. We're here to lend you our more than 40 years of collective experience from our father and son legal team and help you reach a favorable solution.