The court divides a deceased person’s property and assets through a process called probate. The court will follow the wishes of the decedent if that person left a will, but sometimes this process can unveil unpleasant surprises.
If you believe a will is invalid, you can contest it, but you need to meet two standards: legal grounds and personal interest.
What are the legal grounds to dispute a will?
While there are many legal grounds on which you may dispute a will, the most common are:
- Undue influence: A party close to the testator exerts undue pressure on him or her to sign without free will
- Duress: The testator feels coerced into signing a will they did not want to sign
- Revocation: A will written subsequent to another revokes any earlier versions
- Mistake: The will is not representative of the deceased’s wishes due to a mistake of fact
- Incapacitation: At the time of execution, the testator did not have the mental capacity to enter into a contract
- Fraud: The decedent based decisions on intentional or negligent misrepresentation of fact
Additionally, you can dispute a will if it was not properly executed. This often occurs when the document is not properly signed or witnessed.
What is personal interest in the will?
To have a personal interest, your case must satisfy one of two conditions:
- You are a person named in the will
- You are not named as a beneficiary but would benefit if a judge deems the will invalid
If you feel that you meet both the legal grounds to dispute a will and have a personal interest, you may need to act quickly. Missing essential deadlines could prevent you from contesting the will.