Contesting a Will Lawyers
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What Should I Know About Contesting a Will?
Contesting a will is a common subject of many legal claims. In many cases, a will can be challenged or contested if the beneficiaries disagree about the way that the property has been distributed. In fact, contesting a will may actually be necessary in some cases, for instance if an error is found in the will.
Will contests or will disputes can happen at many different stages. They can occur after the testator has already become deceased, and the distribution process is already underway. They can also occur earlier, for example if a family member reads the will while the person is still alive. If the testator is already deceased, their estate executor will usually handle any will disputes.
What Legal Grounds are There for Contesting a Will?
The most common legal ground for contesting a will is to challenge the validity of the will. This can involve many different factors, including:
- “Testamentary Capacity”: The person writing the will must have the mental capacity to formulate the will and make legal decisions on their own (this may include being the age of majority, usually 18 years old)
- Duress or Undue Influence: Wills cannot be created or amended under conditions of undue influence, duress, or threats of physical harm
- Errors and Mistakes: Some (but not all) errors and mistakes in interpretation can cause a will to be invalidated
- Fraud: Wills also cannot be created through the use of fraudulent documents or fraudulent techniques
- Revoked Will: Creating a new will often has the effect of canceling any pre-existing wills. If there have been revisions to a will, you should check to see which one is the valid, legally binding version
There may be other factors involved in challenging the validity of a will. The ability to challenge a will can also depend on the laws in that state, which can often be different from those in other areas. Also, the ability to contest a will may be limited by what is called a “no-contest” clause, which is allowed in some jurisdictions.
What is a No-Contest Clause in a Will?
Some jurisdictions allow a person to include a “no-contest” or “anti-contest” clause in their will. Basically, this is a provision stating that any person who challenges the will distributions will lose their rights to inheritance of property.
If that’s the case, then anyone who challenges a will with such a provision runs the risk that they will be disinherited (i.e., they won’t be able to claim any of the person’s estate). No-contest clauses may be limited by state laws, so you may wish to check with a lawyer if you have questions about these types of provisions in a will.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Help With Contesting a Will?
Contesting a will can be a very demanding process. It generally requires the assistance of a lawyer, as there are many different rules and factors to consider. You may wish to contact an experienced attorney in your area if you need assistance with a will contest claim. Your lawyer can advise you on the various laws the cover will documents, and can represent you in court if you need to attend a hearing.
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Last Modified: 11-01-2012 03:48 PM PDT
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