If you are an interested party, meaning that you are receiving or could receive an inheritance from a will, you may obtain the services of a probate attorney and engage in a will contest. However, note that you and your attorney must have one or more valid reasons to participate in will disputes.
The first step in the process is open probate, a court-supervised stage that determines the validity of the document. Each beneficiary is going to be notified when the process enters the probate stage. A beneficiary or would-be beneficiary who wishes to challenge its validity and engage in litigation needs to do so at this time.
Several possible challenges exist.
This occurs when somebody exerts undue influence over the now-deceased individual and caused that person to change her will because of that influence. Oftentimes, this person entered her life for the first time or continued in a much greater capacity near the end of it and possibly alienated her from her family or friends.
If the deceased individual did not possess mental competence and did not realize what he was doing when he signed this declaration, it is not valid due to his incapacity. Your attorney would likely speak with medical professionals, friends and family who knew him during this time period to determine what his competency level was like at that time.
If the document has been tampered with in any manner, it can be overturned. Possible examples include if pages were removed or inserted or if any of the signatures were forged or procured under false pretenses.
The most common example of this resulting in a will contest occurs when somebody’s name is misspelled. Perhaps it lists an heir as Melanie Q. Jones while the deceased individual’s daughter is named Melanie O. Jones.
Lack of Witnesses
If the document dividing up her estate had not been witnessed and signed by two individuals who do not have a vested interested in its contents, it can be challenged. However, an exception exists if the entire document was handwritten as no witnesses are required for holographic wills.
Age Requirement Not Met
If the person writing it was not at least 18 years old at the time, it is not valid.
However, do note the risks that exist when challenging wills that include a no-contest clause as doing so could cause you to lose anything that had been originally awarded. Fortunately, your attorney is going to advise you as to the best path to take when engaging in will disputes, and good faith challenges rarely result in the person filing it losing what she had been due.
Regardless of the reasons why you are considering disputing this document, make sure to contact a qualified probate attorney for assistance to ensure that this litigation results in you receiving what you deserve from her estate.