Every adult should have a will in place. This document can accomplish many goals, from establishing a person's wishes for asset distribution to making the probate process easier for loved ones.
However, there are circumstances under which someone might contest a will, or question its validity during probate. There are several reasons why people contest wills, and below, we examine four of them. We also discuss some basic steps people can take to prevent will contests.
Why contest a will?
Contesting a will means raising an objection based on the belief that it is invalid for reasons such as the following.
- The testator (person who created the will) was coerced or unduly influenced into signing by someone else.
- The testator didn't understand what he or she was signing at the time because he or she lacked testamentary capacity.
- The will is out of date or trumped by another, newer version.
- The will is not legal because it was given verbally or was not signed in front of appropriate witnesses,
Preventing will contests
The vast majority of wills pass through probate without challenge. However, that doesn't mean they all do. As such, if you are creating a will and want to avoid the disputes and challenges that can arise when someone contests a will, you would be wise to meet with an attorney to ensure your will is valid, updated and reflective of your wishes. If there are any red flags, a legal representative can help you address them.
If you wish to contest a will
If you believe there is reason to question the validity of a loved one's will, know that challenging it is not an insignificant decision. It can lead to legal and familial disputes and extend the probate process. That said, voiding a will that is not legal or truly reflective of your loved one's wishes can be a critical protective measure.
With all that may be at stake when it comes to will contests during the probate process, it is important to consider carefully the legal elements and potential outcomes of your specific situation before deciding on how to proceed to avoid costly missteps.