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Probate and Estate Litigation Blog

Common grounds for disputing a will

Because the testator, or the person who authors a will, is no longer around to voice his or her thoughts or explain his or her decisions regarding who is given what, situations may arise that lead you to question a will and its contents. You cannot, however, contest a will simply because you are displeased with the way assets are allocated, but there are a number of valid grounds you may be able to use to do so. For example, you may be able to dispute a will in the following circumstances.

Fraud occurred

Regrettably, older people, especially those in particularly poor physical or mental health, do get taken advantage of, and this may be done by a family member, friend or other connection who is looking to serve his or her own needs. Fraud takes place if the will's testator is essentially "tricked" into signing a will or trust. For example, maybe an older person was told that a document he or she was signing was actually a separate kind of contract.

State laws were not followed

Each state has its own set of laws regarding what makes a will valid and legal. In Minnesota, you must be at least 18 in order for your will to be legally binding, and you must be of sound mental capacity, too. Additionally, the will has to be written and signed by you and two additional witnesses, both of who must also sign the document. If any of these criteria are not met, the will may be considered invalid.

The testator was not of sound mind

Minnesota law requires that a will testator must be of sound mind, and this generally means several things. First, it implies that the will's author has a firm and complete understanding of the value of the assets being allocated, and that he or she has an understanding of how these assets are going to be distributed. Second, it means the testator must fully comprehend what it means to add his or her signature to the document. This can be difficult to prove, and it may involve garnering documentation from a physician to prove mental incapacity.

Undue influence took place

For a will to be deemed valid, the testator has to author it and make the determinations about how assets are to be allocated without being subject to undue influence from someone who may have ulterior motives. This can be a tough one to prove, however, because threatening someone or behaving aggressively toward them is generally not enough to warrant allegations of undue influence. Instead, you must prove that the influence was strong enough to leave the testator without the free will to make the decision on his or her own.

For more about how to contest a will, consider contacting a lawyer.

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