Yes, a Will can be contested in court. When someone challenges the validity of a Will, they are essentially questioning whether the Will truly reflects the intentions of the deceased and whether it was executed properly under the law.
Several grounds can serve as the basis for contesting a Will:
- Lack of Testamentary Capacity: The challenger argues that the testator (the person who made the Will) lacked the mental capacity to understand the nature and extent of their property, who they were benefiting, and the legal effect of signing a Will.
- Undue Influence: This claim suggests that the testator was pressured or coerced into making the Will in a particular way, often benefitting the person exerting the influence.
- Fraud: If someone alleges that the Will was procured by fraud, they’re claiming that the testator was tricked into signing it. An example might be if the testator was misled about the content of the document they were signing.
- Forgery: In some cases, it’s alleged that the Will, or a part of it, was forged.
- Improper Execution: Most jurisdictions have specific formal requirements for executing a Will, such as the number of witnesses required. If these procedures weren’t followed correctly, the Will might be declared invalid.
- Existence of a Later Will: If a more recent Will is discovered, it could supersede and invalidate the earlier one, assuming it was executed properly.
It’s essential to note that merely being unhappy or disappointed with the inheritance (or lack thereof) is not a valid ground for contesting a Will. The challenger typically must have standing (a direct, tangible interest) and legitimate legal grounds to contest.
Given the complex nature of Will contests and the potential for significant legal costs, it’s often advisable to attempt mediation or another form of dispute resolution before going to court. If someone believes they have grounds to contest a Will, they should consult with an attorney experienced in probate litigation to understand the merits of their case and the potential consequences of a legal challenge.
At Dynasty we recommend creating a free Living Trust to avoid challenges and probate.