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Legal grounds for contesting a will

Death is an inevitability that everyone must face. While nothing can necessarily prepare an individual to face their own mortality, having one's personal and financial matters in order can help set one's mind at ease.

In some cases, after a loved one's passing, relatives or close friends may be surprised to learn of the contents of a will. Was a grown child omitted from a will? Were the contents of a previous will dramatically different from a recently amended will? Is an unlikely individual named in a will? In cases where loved ones have concerns regarding the validity of a will, steps may be taken to legally contest a will.

The American Association of Retired Persons provides information related to the legal grounds on which a will may be contested. An individual must be able to provide evidence proving one of the following:

  • Lack of capacity - Did a loved one suffer from dementia? Was he or she sick or unable to speak? In cases where a will was drafted or signed when an individual may have lacked the capacity to fully understand the implications of their actions, a will contest may be brought on the grounds of lack of capacity. 
  • Undue influence - Was an elderly loved one taken advantage of by an unscrupulous individual? In cases where questions exist related to the true intentions of an individual who stood to benefit from a loved one's passing, undue influence may be used to contest a will. 
  • Fraud - At the time a will was signed, did a loved one know what he or she was signing? If a loved one signed a will they believed to be something else entirely or were not fully aware of the contents of the document, fraud may have been committed.
  • Improper execution: Some terms of a will are dictated by state laws. Failure to include state-specific language or abide by certain state-specific rules may invalidate a will. 

Individuals, who believe a loved one's will may be deemed invalid on the basis of one of the above-mentioned grounds, would be wise to seek legal advice.  

Source: AARP.org, "Where There's a Will …," Nancy Mann Jackson, Aug. 17, 2011 

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