More than 42 percent of adults have some type of estate plan in place that will help their loved ones deal with their assets when they pass away. The most common document people use to do just that is the will.
When your loved one drafts a will, it explains how they want their estate handled and tells you how to honor their memory best. Though most wills are legally binding and clear, there will be instances when you’ll want to contest the document.
The exact instances vary from situation to situation, but some happen more often. Here are a few of the most common reasons to contest a will.
1. There’s Another Will in Place
It’s normal for people to have several different versions of their wills drafted over the course of their lives, especially after they retire. This helps them keep up with changing circumstances and allows them to update their beneficiaries as needed.
However, those different drafts can create a bit of confusion when it’s time to settle the estate. The copy of the will that the attorney or executor has may not always be the most current version. This can create problems with asset distribution and is the most common reason people start contesting wills.
If you know that there’s a newer copy of the will in place, you can contest the will the attorney or executor presents. Keep in mind that you’ll need to find a copy of the newer will if you want to be successful.
That will must also satisfy your area’s legal requirements to be valid. If it doesn’t, the older will may take precedence.
2. You Suspect Fraud
Unfortunately, some families have to deal with issues of fraud and forgery with their loved one’s will. Forgery and fraud could be something as simple as a forged signature and as complicated as a completely fabricated will that your loved one signed under duress.
If you think the will the executor is presenting is fraudulent or know that your loved one would never agree to the terms outlined in the will, contest it.
Be willing to present as much proof as you can find. Your proof could be a copy of a previous will that allows you to compare signatures. You can also use letters, emails, text messages, and recorded conversations to prove that your loved one’s wishes aren’t reflected in the current will.
3. The Deceased Was Not of Sound Mind
In most areas, wills are only valid if the person dictating the terms fully understands the things they’re outlining. They must be of sound mind.
This means they can’t be under the influence of mind-altering substances or on behavior-altering medications that could impact their ability to understand what’s going on.
If you know that changes to the will happened while your loved one was unable to fully understand what they were agreeing to, contest the will.
You’ll need to be able to provide proof that your loved one was not able to understand the changes. Your attorney will be able to advise you on the types of evidence that will help you prove your case.
4. You Believe Someone Manipulated Your Loved One
People love to take advantage of others when they’re facing difficult times and situations. Think about how your loved one’s last few years or months were.
Did they remain in contact with the family? If so, it’s unlikely that someone manipulated them and influenced the will.
However, if an outsider cut them off from the people they cared about and started encouraging them to make different decisions, you may be able to contest the will.
If someone manipulated your loved one to alter the way they allocated their estate, fighting it is the best option. Keep in mind that you’ll likely find yourself asking, “how long does it take to contest a will?” throughout the process.
Proving manipulation takes time and you’ll need to hire an experienced attorney to make it happen as quickly as possible.
5. There Aren’t Enough Witnesses
When your loved one made their will, they needed to sign it in front of witnesses and get those witnesses to sign the will, too. If they weren’t able to get enough witnesses to satisfy local law, you may want to contest the will.
Without witnesses, you have no way of knowing if the provisions outlined in the will are things they wanted. By contesting the will, you’ll help make sure that your loved one’s wishes get honored the way they wanted them to.
Settling this type of debate will be much easier if there’s another existing will in place that the executor can review. Otherwise, determining what your loved one truly wanted can prove difficult and will take longer.
6. The Will Isn’t Signed
After creating the will, your loved one should sign it. This proves that the provisions in the will are what they want and that the beneficiaries they chose are who they want their assets to pass to.
Without their signature, there’s no guarantee that your loved one was the person who drafted the will. This makes it hard to ensure that their final wishes get honored properly.
If the will is missing their signature, talk to an attorney that’s familiar with will contesting as soon as possible. The sooner you start the process, the sooner you can honor your loved one’s final wishes.
Understand the Reasons to Contest a Will
There are many reasons to contest a will, but these are the most common. Make sure you understand those reasons in detail and see if any apply to your situation.
If you think that you have grounds for contesting a will, start the process as soon as possible. Consult with an attorney and let them guide you through the steps.
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