Reasons for Contesting a Will
As attorneys who practice in probate court, we know contesting a Last Will and Testament is a long process, which often involves disputes amongst beneficiaries/heirs to the estate and disputes regarding the terms of the Last Will and Testament. Although probate litigation may be overwhelming, it is not uncommon that the interested parties will be unhappy with some aspect of the Last Will and Testament’s terms and provisions. As previously discussed, dissatisfied parties may dispute the Last Will and Testament. However, not just anybody has the right to challenge a will.
Ask yourself: “Can I contest this will?”
Determine whether you have standing to contest the Last Will and Testament. Are you named as a beneficiary in the Last Will and Testament? Were you named as a beneficiary in a previous will and written out in the updated version of the Last Will and Testament? If you are not named as a beneficiary in the Last Will and Testament, would Florida intestacy law make you eligible to inherit from the decedent if a will did not exist? If your answer is yes to any of the questions listed, your next step is to consider the reason why you are choosing to contest a Last Will and Testament.
Know your “why?”
Having the standing to contest a will is not enough – consider why you are choosing to contest the will. You cannot just contest a will because you want to. The reason why you are contesting a will should have a legal basis.
Common legal reasons for contesting wills:
- Mental Incompetency of the Testator – The person to whom the will belongs must have been mentally competent when executing the will in order to understand the consequences of executing a will and assigning beneficiaries. If you believe the testator was coerced into writing and signing a will due to mental incompetency, this may be a legal basis to challenge the will in probate court.
- The will is legally invalid – Each state has wills and trusts laws, which govern the guidelines that must be followed for a will to be considered valid. To get one step ahead of the game when contesting a will, become familiar with your states wills and trusts laws. Try to identify laws that may have been broken when the will was written because to be considered valid, a will must comply with those laws. You can challenge a legally invalid will.
- A more recent version of the will exists — A modification of the previous will revokes the previous version of the will – only the most recent version of the will is valid if it has been properly executed and meets other guidelines.
- The will is incomplete – The will does not meet the required legal standards, has omitted language or could be left with blank spaces where there should be beneficiaries listed.
As a beneficiary, heir or potential beneficiary to a Last Will and Testament, you are in a position to challenge the terms of that Last Will and Testament. To strengthen your claim against the Last Will and Testament, become familiar with the legal reasons why a will may be invalid and identify one (or more) of these legal reasons as the basis for your claim.
As attorneys who practice probate law, our goal is to understand your needs as a client. We understand the process of contesting a Last Will and Testament is complicated, especially while grieving the loss of a loved one. The Florida Probate & Family Law Firm is committed to enabling our clients to receive fair results. If you are considering contesting a Last Will and Testament, contact us to set up an appointment to evaluate your options. We offer virtual consultations so call us for more information.