Contesting The Validity Of A Will
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 focus on the assertion that the will is invalid due to some sort of outside influence or mental instability. A will contest often arises in the case of a “death bed” will, which is one that is executed in the dying person’s last days or even hours before death.
Two Types Of People In A Contested Will
Typically, those who contest a will’s validity fall into two classes of people: Those who are named as beneficiaries in the will, and 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.
Contested Will And The Probate Process
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, which commonly state that the testator:
- Lacked testamentary or mental capacity
- Acted under an insane delusion
- Acted under undue influence (substituting another person’s will in place of the testator)
- Was the subject of fraud
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 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 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.
50 Years Of Trusted Experience Resolving Contested Wills
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 call 270-561-6155 and speak with an Elizabethtown estate litigation attorney from Cooper & Cooper Law Offices, PLLC, for advice. You can also send us a direct message. We’re here to help you reach a favorable solution.