If you have a parent or loved one who has passed away, the stress of the situation may minimize some of the legal proceedings that will take place. One of these, however, is the review and execution of the will. You may find that it has been unexpectedly altered prior to your father’s passing to hand over the majority of his estate to one of his nurses or a sibling. In such a situation, you will naturally want to seek recourse. If you are considering contesting the will, there are a few things you should know first.
Who has the right to contest a will
Some people mistakenly assume that the existence of a will exempts an estate from probate court. On the contrary, there are cases in which the probate court will handle the will and estate of the deceased. Cases involving contention may fall into this, but before you formally file, you must determine whether you are eligible to. Parties such as disinherited heirs-at-law, beneficiaries and trustees are typically those who are able to contest.
Contesting based on testamentary capacity
If you are able to contest the will, you should then consider valid reasons for doing so. One that may apply is the deceased’s supposed lack of testamentary capacity. This refers to circumstances in which he or she failed to understand the value or nature of assets, who should receive these assets and the legal consequences of signing a will.
Addressing undue influence
The suggestion of undue influence is another valid reason you may be able to contest a will. If your father or loved one passed at an elderly age, they were likely physically and mentally weak, as most elderly are. This can make them vulnerable to manipulation, and in some cases, such manipulation can influence a will. If a person was able to pressure the deceased into changing his or her will, contesting it on these grounds may be an option.
Revealing fraud and forgery
Perhaps the most obvious instance in which a will can be contested is in cases of fraud or forgery. If the former applies, the deceased will have been tricked into signing the will. Cases involving the latter, on the other hand, may involve estate documents that have been falsely produced or replicated.
If you are eligible to contest your father’s will, and you believe one of these conditions is applicable, an attorney may be able to help. With legal representation, you can advocate for your loved one’s final wishes.