Will disputes make regular appearances in the news. When heirs to a wealthy estate dislike the contents and direction of a will, they may choose to contest it, arguing that is not correct. However, contesting a will just because you do not like what it says is not usually enough to initiate litigation. So, what is?
Although there are several reasons to contest a will, today we will focus on three: undue influence, testamentary capacity and a second will.
Undue influence occurs when the testator — or the person who wrote the will — was wrongfully coerced or manipulated into changing his or her will. Typically committed by someone close to the testator, undue influence can render a will invalid because it presumes the testator did not have the mental capacity to understand that he or she was being manipulated.
Along these lines, a will may also be challenged on the basis of testamentary capacity. In this situation, you must show that the testator lacked the mental capacity to understand the terms that he or she was creating and their consequences. If a testator had dementia, another illness or was under the influence of a substance that impaired his or her mental capacity, the will may be challenged.
Finally, a will can be challenged if a more recent will is discovered. The courts strive to follow the last version of a will in probate. While testators are encouraged to make it clear when they have decided to void one version of a will, it is possible that the wrong will can go through probate. In this case, the court may accept the more recent will if it is valid and legal.
While these are not the only reasons to challenge a will, they are among the most common. If you suspect that your loved one’s will is inaccurate — or that he or she was manipulated into changing his or her will — it is important to speak with an attorney who handles probate litigation.