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Probate and Estate Litigation Blog

4 common legal grounds for contesting wills

Wills are legal documents intended to dictate how someone wishes to distribute their assets after he or she passes on, but for various reasons, family members of the deceased sometimes have reason to contest a will's contents. The process has obvious complications, with perhaps the most obvious being that the author of the will is no longer available to answer questions about why certain assets were allocated certain ways. This can cause considerable strife within a family, and this is particularly true when one family member receives more than another for reasons that aren't immediate apparent. If you are trying to legally contest a will, you may find it useful to understand the following four commonly cited reasons for doing so.

1. The will was improperly executed.

Each state has its own set of laws regarding wills. In Minnesota, a will's signing must be observed by two witnesses, and those two witnesses in turn must also sign the will. Additionally, the creator of the will must be a legal adult of sound mind, and the will itself must be either typed or handwritten. If any of these criteria are not met, you may have grounds to contest.

2. The will is fraudulent.

You may, too, be able to contest a will if you can prove that fraud or forgery occurred somewhere along the line. For example, maybe the will's author was told that the document had different implications, or perhaps was made to think it was another type of document entirely. If you believe forgery occurred after the will was created and the document has been made to say anything other than the author's true intent, this also could be grounds for contesting it.

3. The will was created with undue influence.

A third legal reason you may have to contest a will is if you believe that its author was coerced. For example, maybe your mother or father had a long-term caretaker who was left most or all of your mother or father's estate. If you believe the decision was made because of heavy pressure from that caretaker, you may be able to pursue legal action.

4. The will was authored by someone with a lack of mental capacity.

As mentioned, for a will to be considered valid, its author must have been of sound mind at the time it was created. If the author suffered from dementia or another condition that may impact the ability to carefully consider the will's implications, its contents may be deemed invalid.

Any of these issues can be grounds to contest a will. If you believe that the will of a loved one falls under one of these, consider getting in touch with an attorney.

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