Contesting a Will
While it is less common to find someone who wants to contest a last will and testament than it is to discover someone who is willing to accept the terms of a will, occasionally it does happen. However, challenging a will is difficult, expensive, and time consuming. Typically, these three factors are sufficient to convince someone not to go forward with a decision to contest a will. Four main reasons exist that can be used to legally contest a will.
What Are the Legal Grounds for Contesting a Will?
Four very specific reasons exist for contesting a last will and testament. They include the following:
· The will must be signed according to the guidelines of the state of residence.
· The testator was strongly influenced by another individual into signing that specific will.
· The testator did not have the mental acuity needed to sign the will.
· The testator has been tricked into signing the will.
The Signing of the Will Is Not Valid
Each of the fifty states has its own set of guidelines regarding the procedures for signing a last will and testament. If the will has not been signed properly according to state laws, then it can be found to be invalid. In many cases, this type of document must be signed in the presence of at least two witnesses who must be in the same room as the testator when he is signing. Additionally, these witnesses must also sign the will in order to make it valid. An improper signing of the will is one of the most common reasons for a will to be contested. It is also the easiest reason to prove, especially when less than the predetermined number of witnesses has signed the document.
Someone Has Influenced the Testator
Many people are susceptible to the influence of someone who is stronger either physically or mentally than they are. These individuals can convince the testator to create a last will and testament that favors them as the beneficiaries. Once they convince the testator to sign the document and it is properly witnessed, it will give the appearance of being a valid will. It is difficult to prove that another individual has unduly influenced the testator to sign a will that he has not created entirely by himself. It must be proven that the testator lost his free will to make up his own mind because he was under an extreme amount of duress due to the influence of one or more individuals.
The Testator Lacked the Capacity to Sign
In order for a testator to have what is referred to as testamentary capacity, he must meet three requirements. He must fully understand the value and nature of his assets. He must understand who should be entitled to his assets or otherwise legally inherit his possessions. The testator must also understand the legal implications of signing a will. The lack of testamentary capacity in a deceased individual is difficult to prove and requires a great deal of documentation and proof.
Someone Has Tricked the Testator into Signing the Will
In rare cases, one or more individuals might trick someone into signing a will. This is usually accomplished by slipping the will in with a bunch of other documents that need signing or indicating that the will is some other type of document. Since the testator is deceased and unavailable for questioning, this scenario is extremely difficult to prove. However, since most states have a requirement regarding witnesses, these individuals can be questioned about the signing of the will. Since more than one witness is typically needed to validate a will, their stories should be identical when questioned.