Reasons to Contest a Will
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Reasons to Contest a Will

It is usually very challenging to contest a will. Somewhere around ninety nine percent of wills go through probate without any problems. Wills are considered by the courts as the “spokesperson” of the testator, the individual that wrote the will. Since that person is no longer around to convey their wishes, the courts stick inflexible concerning the will. Anyone that may have an interest to benefit from the will is able to contest it. The most successful contesters are typically the spouses, and the most successful grounds are that the individual fell short testamentary capacity or that the individual was overly influenced or coerced to write the will a specific way.

If you contest a will and succeed, it can be voided completely or just partially. Occasionally, a prior stipulation, for instance, from a previous will can be reintegrated. When the entire will is voided, the court is going to distribute the property like there was never a will created. This distribution is regulated by intestacy laws and is dictated by family relationships.

Testamentary Capacity

The law has the requirement that only adults 18 or older have the capacity to devise a will. Minors do not have the capacity to devise a legal will. On the other hand, in several jurisdictions, minors that serve or have served in the military or minors that are married are granted the right to devise a will.

Adults are expected to have testamentary capacity. When litigation comes up that questions an adult’s testamentary capacity, it is typically on the basis that the adult has debility, mental illness, insanity, was influenced by substance abuse, or in some other way is devoid of the mental capacity to devise a will. To put it lightly, to contest a will on the basis of mental capacity, you must demonstrate that the testator (the individual that devised the will) was not of understanding of the consequences of devising the will at its creation. To be more specific, the individual needs to understand:

  • The degree and worth of the property;
  • Who they are expected to look after and who the beneficiaries of the will are going to be;
  • The disposition they are making and what a will entails; and
  • How these aspects relate to form a distribution of property.

Deception, Forgery, and Unwarranted Influence

You can contest a will by demonstrating that the will was procured by deception, forgery, or unwarranted influence. This typically involves an individual manipulating a vulnerable individual into leaving all or much of the property to the exploiter. The expression “undue influence” simply means that the individual lacked the free will to negotiate because of the exploiter.

Another Will Outplays the One Being Carried Out

When the executor is attempting to carry out the stipulations of an out of date will, the newer will is going to outplay the outdated one. Usually, there are requirements to shred the outdated will. It is best to always shred or show an intention of voiding any outdated will, should one decide to modify or update their will. A lot of individuals even proclaim in the new will that it is intended to outplay and/or void out the preceding will. This is the reason why dating the will documentation is so critical.

The court’s preference is to satisfy the desire of the testator. When a valid legal will emerges that is more up to date than the one being carried out, the court is likely to adhere to the newer will. Each state differs as to what they constitute a voided and updated will, so verify with your state’s laws.

Sufficient and Appropriate Witnesses

A typed paper-copy of the will is required to be dated and signed by the testator in the presence of at the minimum 2 adult witnesses. Vermont necessitates 3 witnesses. A lot of states require that the witnesses not to be individuals that are named as heirs in the will. When, in one of these states, a witness is named in the will, their gift could be voided, but not the rest of the will.

About fifty percent of states do permit hand written, un-witnessed wills. These are referred to as “holographic” wills and they are required be written and signed completely by the testator, and in many states, they are required to be dated. These wills are the most easy wills to contest since there aren’t any witnesses. In cases of holographic wills, the court needs to be positive that the whole thing was created in the testator’s handwriting and that it was created to serve as a will of its creator.

Provisions in the Will

Each state has their own laws concerning what a valid legal will must encompass. A lot of states necessitate that the will:

  • specifically states that it is the testator’s (the creator of it) will;
  • comprises of at least one substantive clause, like leaving a particular piece of property to a particular heir; and
  • name a personal representative “executor” to be responsible for imploring the terms when its time. In a lot of states, the court is going to name an executor and execute the will, even when the will names its own.

Self-Proving Testimony

There is no requirement that the will needs to be notarized. On the other hand, a lot of people include “self-proving” testimony in their wills. This is a bound declaration that the witnesses sign in the presence of a notary, in which frees the witnesses of the requirement of going to court in the future to swear to the soundness of the will.

Residence of the Testator

If the will was legitimate and legal in accordance to the laws of the state in which the testator had their forever home, then the will is legitimate in any state in which the testator passes away.

For instance, Stephanie has a vacation home in Arizona, where she spends around 5 weeks out of the year. She also has business offices in Colorado and Oregon, where she occasionally visits to manage business, but doesn’t spend any long amounts of time. Stephanie owns a home in Kentucky. This is where she spends most of her time, has her principal mail sent, is registered to vote, and her children live and go to school. Stephanie created a legitimate legal will in Kentucky, in accordance with the laws of Kentucky.

A couple of years later, Stephanie passes away while vacationing in her Arizona home. Her eldest daughter and executor, Linda, had just moved into Stephanie’s Arizona home, and chooses to settle the will there. Lisa, Stephanie’s youngest daughter wants to contest the will, on the basis of residence. She claims that since Stephanie’s residence was Kentucky, the probate laws of the 2 states vary, and that Stephanie devised the will in Kentucky, the will is not legitimate in Arizona. Lisa is probably not going to be successful. Even though the will does not fulfill the requirements of Arizona’s will laws, it was totally legal and legitimate when devised in Kentucky, Stephanie’s state of residence, and consequently, is completely legitimate and legal in Arizona, where Stephanie passed away.

Should You Contest a Will? An Estate Planning Attorney Can Help You Determine if you Should

A will can be very advantageous to a descendant’s family members and loved ones, but there are times when a will needs to be given a second look and possibly modified or discarded. If you think one of more will terms should not be enforced, you may want to get the viewpoint of a legal professional. Begin today and find a knowledgeable, local estate planning lawyer.


  1. Reasons to challenge a will. Findlaw. (2018, January 19). Retrieved January 28, 2022, from

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