Nobody ever expects to be in a position where they consider challenging a will — but sometimes it is really the right thing to do.
If you’re questioning whether or not you should take action to halt the legal proceedings involving a parent or other relative’s estate with a challenge in court, here are the things that you should consider:
1. Was the deceased incapacitated at signing?
Most people make their wills out long before anything happens to their minds. However, as a person ages, strokes or dementia can cause distorted thinking. If that thinking becomes obsessive, the elderly person may rewrite his or her will and cut people out based on paranoid delusions.
Keep in mind, if you challenge the deceased mental competence at the time the will was written, you may have a difficult case. People are assumed to be competent — even if their decisions seem strange to others — unless proven otherwise. You’ll have to show that the deceased didn’t fully understand the consequences of his or her actions when the will was written.
2. Is the will a fake?
A fake will could be entirely fictional or it could just have a forged signature on it. That sometimes happen when someone begins the process of writing a will but never quite gets around to signing it. Heirs hoping for a quick close on the probate may try to forge the deceased’s signature and justify it with the idea that it was what he or she “wanted, anyhow.”
3. Are there multiple wills?
Sometimes more than one will surfaces and creates confusion about the deceased’s real intentions. While most wills include language that revoke all previous wills, the presence of an intact, properly-executed will that stands in opposition to the latest one can create doubt that the deceased was in his or her right might when the most recent will was executed.
4. Was undue influence involved?
“Undue influence” is the legal term for manipulation. If a relative or friend manipulated the deceased into changing his or her will to cut out other heirs and leave the bulk of an estate elsewhere, there’s a possibility that the will could be overturned.
There are, of course, other reasons for a will to be declared invalid — but it’s generally wisest to get legal advice before you act because of the complex issues involved.
Source: FindLaw, “Reasons to Challenge a Will,” accessed Feb. 27, 2018