Fighting over your inheritance: How to Challenge a Will

After the pain of being cheated out of your rightful inheritance, it’s time to take legal actions to take back what’s yours. It will take planning, patience and most of all, courage.

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Legal actions to contest a will is a step most of us will never have to experience. However, if your loved one’s will do not quite favor you or at least give your due, then you need to know what the grounds are for challenging a will. You will need to ponder what the current estate value is and how to go about putting up a challenge.

First things first. To contest a will, you must either be a devisee of the contested will, or someone who would have inherited if the deceased had died without a will. The court will consider people who meet either of these conditions to have a right. Most state consider spouses, children, grandchildren, parents and some instances, siblings, to be interested persons should a person die without a will.

It’s fairly normal for a will to contain a clause that states that the beneficiaries or any interested persons who challenges the document will lose any bequests that are included in the will or otherwise be fined.

Grounds for Contesting a Will. Apart from the legal standing, you should also have evidence of impropriety concerning the will. The most common grounds for challenging a will includes:

  • Lack of capacity

  • Undue Influence by another

  • Fraud

  • Existence of a more recent will

  • The will was not signed or witnessed properly

The lack of capacity talks about the document being invalid because the person who created the will was not mentally stable at the time the will was made. The probate court is only concerned with the mental state of the deceased at the time the will was made.

Undue influence is an allegation that the deceased was manipulated or pressured into signing the will by a person who will benefit from it. Some cases of undue influence include the use of threats, manipulated separation amongst the deceased and other members of the family or even withholding medications.

A will can also be invalidated if the person creating the will used a false statement or fraudulent deception. One example of fraud is where the testator signs a document not knowing that it’s a will.

An improperly witnessed or signed will is also a ground for invalidating the signed document. If a challenge is brought alleging that the will was not witnessed by a qualified number of people, the courts can call the witnesses to reappear and verify their participation or signatures.

Once your eligibility is proven, consideration can then be provided as to whether the court can and will make an order for provision, or further provision, from the estate of your deceased loved on.

While challenging a will is a difficult task, it doesn’t need to be painfully time-consuming and physically/mentally tolling. Online assessments for challenging a will is available on the internet if you know where to look. Some of them even provides case assessments by experienced estates lawyers at no cost.

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