A last will and testament is meant to fulfill the final wishes of a deceased person. In most cases, this legal document ensures a comfortable future for the family members of the diseased. The perfect will should ensure all family members are included and that it is fair to everyone concerned. But, what happens when one family member feels left out or finds the will to be unfair? Well, there is a legal route which involves contesting the will. Before deciding to embark on this route, it is important to ensure that you have a good reason and are related to the testator by either marriage or blood. The reasons behind challenging a will are vast and varied but not all wills can be successfully challenged. The following are grounds on which a will can be successfully contested.
Disregard Of State Laws
When drafting a will, the necessary state laws must be followed. These laws vary from one state to the next, therefore any testator is advised to get familiar with the relevant laws before signing a will. When a will is signed without complying with the state laws, it can be challenged and later determined null and void by a court of law. If the will is subject to laws of one state but executed in another jurisdiction, you might have grounds to challenge it.
Procurement Of Will Through Fraudulent Means
You can contest a will if you believe that some sort of fraud took place prior to or during the signing of the document. A fraudulent will can happen when the testator signs the will while being led to believe that he/she is signing something else. Seeing as the testator is not around to testify about the signing of the will, your best bet of proving that fraud was indeed involved would be through a witnesses present at the signing of the will. The court will summon the witnesses to question them on why they were called to serve as witnesses and what the testator was told he/she was signing.
If you suspect and can prove that the testator was forced into signing the will, then that qualifies as undue influence. This is one of the grounds of contesting a will. If undue influence is your complaint, you must prove beyond reasonable doubt that signing of the will came about through coercion, manipulation, intimidation, or deception.
Poor Testamentary Capacity
Wills can be contested if the testator lacked testamentary capacity at the time of signing. Testamentary capacity is a legal term used to refer to a person’s legal and mental ability to make or alter an already existing will. For the will to be valid the testator must:
- Understand that he/she is making a will and the legal effect of signing the will.
- Know the nature and value of his/her wealth.
- Be of sound mind.
- Understand the consequences of including or excluding certain people from the will.
Contesting a will and getting a verdict that is in your favor is not easy. However, with reasonable grounds, good evidence, and a great lawyer, you might be able to win the case.
This article was authored by Dermid Hamilton, a freelance writer whose articles mainly offer useful information on legal matters. Hamilton advices you to click here when in need of a qualified Edinburgh lawyer who can help with last will and testament disputes.