Whenever someone contests a will, they're making a formal objection to its validity. Whether they feel as if it doesn't reflect the deceased's actual intent or that the individual lacked the proper mental capacity, they petition the court to rightly divide the estate. Though most courts will do their best to uphold your last wishes, there are always exceptions in which they may find that your loved ones have valid concerns. The success of their case depends on the grounds on which they choose to contest your will. Below are 7 reasons why family members may contest your will.
1. Mental Incapacity
One of the most common reasons why family members may contest your will is mental incapacity. Under this circumstance, they may assert that you lack the mental capacity to draft a will. Your loved ones may feel as if you didn't understand the nature of the property and therefore were not qualified to sign contracts.
This is most commonly found in cases in which the individual suffered from conditions such as dementia. However, mental illness and disease do not automatically qualify as grounds for contesting a will. Your family members will be expected to provide medical records or testimony-backed proof that you exhibited irrational conduct at the time your will was drafted.
2. Undue influence
Your family members may contest your will on the grounds that you were unduly influenced. They may assert that someone whom you loved and trusted persuaded you to draft a will that reflects their desires rather than your own. In many cases, this may be closely tied to your mental capacity and bring into question whether or not you were of sound mind when the will was drafted.
In order to validate their claim of undue influence, your loved ones will be expected to prove that the other party used some form of manipulation, coercion, or even fraudulent devices. It may even be proven that you were under duress at the time. In some states, your loved ones are required to show evidence that the other party was present during the time you expressed your desire to draft a will, that they made a recommendation of an attorney, and that they were in possession of the will before it was executed.
Undue influence is often difficult to prove because it requires that your loved ones prove the motive of the other party. The will must reflect a substantial benefit to the individual. Also, there must be evidence that your freedom to contest the will was taken away due to the actions of the other party.
Another form of mental incapacity is the claim of delusion. Your loved ones may assert that your will was influenced by false beliefs that completely go against reality. Specifically, these beliefs must be irrational and against all reason and evidence.
This claim may be validated if you are found to have been under the influence of strong medications at the time of death. However, in this case, your family members would likely be required to enlist the testimony of doctors in regards to how the medications would have affected your personality.
There are two instances in which your family members may make a fraud claim. Fraud in the execution requires a party to convince you that you're signing a document other than your will. Fraud in the inducement requires a party to use a material fact to mislead you so that you would execute your will differently than you would have ordinarily.
5. Technical Flaws
Each state has its own requirements when it comes to wills and legal formalities. Some require that the will be notarized and witnessed by a specific number of people. Some require the signing of a will to be witnessed by parties who have no interest in the matter. Others require that the will contain specific jargon and terminology. If your state has these or other specific requirements that were not met, then your loved ones may contest your will on the grounds of technical flaws.
If your loved ones feel that your will is a fabrication, they may contest it on the grounds of forgery. The fabrication can include the entire document or just portions of it. For instance, you may have drafted the will, but if someone else signs it, it can be deemed invalid. You may have drafted your will, but if someone else made modifications or additions to it, it would be considered invalid.
Forgery often occurs in the case of a parent and adult child. One of your children may feel as if they have not been given all that they deserved which prompts them to accuse their sibling of making changes to the will. The most notable case of forgery was one in which a British physician was caught after forging several of his patients' wills to benefit himself.
7. Legal inheritance
Not all cases involve fraud, mental illness, or coercion. There are some instances in which your loved one may contest the will simply because they feel as if it is unfair. For example, if you have a surviving spouse or orphaned child to whom you left nothing or less than is deemed reasonable, your disposition of property may be disputed. This is irrespective of whether or not your will is valid.
As you can see, there are several grounds on which your loved ones may contest your will. This is why many choose to include an in terrorem clause in their will. This is also what is referred to as a no-contest clause. It's designed to discourage family members and other beneficiaries from contesting the will lest they forfeit their own inheritance. However, if the family member is able to successfully challenge your will, this clause may be rendered null and void. If you're interested in learning more about what options you have as it concerns your will, try CNG Wills Brisbane representation.
Published by Charlesa Gibson