You spent the past three years caring for your elderly father. Feeding him, bathing him and taking him to doctor’s appointments were just a few of the ways you served him.
After your father’s passing at the reading of his will, you learn that a long-lost relative is due to receive most of your father’s estate, including many of the items your father had promised to give to you. After a closer look, the will does not resemble the version that you had at your home. What happened, and is there any way to get what is rightfully yours?
Contesting a will is a way of challenging its language in probate court. What are legitimate grounds for contesting a will?
- It doesn’t conform with applicable state laws. Each state has specific laws governing wills. In most cases, it must contain the signatures of the “testator” – the person who created the will and has since died – and the witnesses. The testator and witnesses are supposed to be in the same room at the same time, and all must watch the others sign the will. While this process seems straightforward, failing to sign a will according to state law is the most common reason why wills are ruled to be invalid.
- Lacks “Testamentary Capacity.” Sometimes wills are changed near the end of an elderly person’s life. A person contesting the will can allege that their loved one signed a will without understanding it. Without strong testimony documenting the person’s failing health conditions, contesting “testamentary capacity” is difficult to prove.
- Testator was unduly influenced. Did someone exert extreme pressure on the elderly person, forcing the person to lose his/her free will and sign a document that they did not agree with? Proving that this took place is extremely challenging and often requires supporting testimony from the testator’s attorney and others.
- Procured by Fraud. Was the testator tricked into signing the will by someone who claimed the document was a deed, a power of attorney, or other legal document when, in fact, it was a new version of the will?
- Not of Legal Age. In almost all states, a person must be at least 18 years of age at the time of the will’s signing.
Of course, the most challenging aspect of contesting a will is that you won’t have the testimony of the deceased, and it is difficult to prove the deceased’s state of mind, health, capacity or fear.
If you have concerns about the validity of a loved one’s will or creating a will that will stand up in court, you may want to speak to an experienced attorney who can outline your options, such as a will lawyer in Folsom, CA, from a firm like The Yee Law Group, PC.