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What is a Will Contest and Who Can Contest a Will?

Couple meeting lawyer to contest a legal document such as a will

When a family member dies, there can sometimes be disputes over the validity of the will. This is called a will contest. This can be a difficult time for families, and contesting a will can make a tough situation even more difficult. In a will contest, certain parties to the will may raise an objection to the will, with the idea that it is not conveying the deceased person’s true intentions with their assets. Those contesting the will may make the case that the deceased was incapacitated at the time the will was drawn up, and unable to make clear decisions. Of course, not just anyone can contest a will. According to Florida probate law, only “interested parties” can make the case against a will. And they can only challenge the will for legal reasons. Interested parties are defined to include children, heirs, devisees, spouses, creditors, or any others having a property right, or claim against, the estate being administered. Those who may challenge a will generally fall into one of three main categories, which are the beneficiaries of a prior will, beneficiaries of a subsequent will, and intestate heirs.

A last will and testament is not invalid simply because a party does not like the contents. In many cases, a decedent can purposely exclude family members from a will, or may limit their device under the terms of a will. The reasons for the decedent’s perfectly legal actions may prove difficult to understand and accept.

Contesting a Will

In order to contest a will, a person must show that they have “standing” to challenge the will. A person who has “standing” to challenge a will is typically someone who is named on the face of the will or someone who is not the beneficiary, but who would inherit or lose under the will if the will was deemed invalid. Standing is the first requirement to overcome to contest a will. 

Beneficiaries to the will have standing to contest it, as do heirs and some minors. Beneficiaries are those who are named in a will and can include your spouse, children, grandchildren, or other relatives, but can also include friends, charitable organizations, charities, and pets.

Minors may only be able to challenge a will once they have reached the age of 18, as they are not legally able to initiate legal proceedings, except under the guidelines of an executor or court representative.

Incapacitation

One of the reasons a will can be contested is because the deceased was incapacitated at the time a will was drawn up, or when the will was changed. In Florida, a witness must be present when a will is changed, in order to prevent forgery, and to ensure the person is in the proper state of mind. A person drafting a will must be of sound mind when they draft the will or direct another to do the same. After all, many wills are drafted by attorneys at the request of the person who has died.

Undue Influence

Undue influence is another reason a will may be contested, if someone involved with the process is suspected of procuring the will. Proof of that may involve the suspected person being around while the will is drawn up, suggesting the law firm to use to construct the will, having knowledge of the will before the person has died, and maintaining possession of the will after the benefactor has passed. 

Contact a Probate Attorney

Contesting a will can be a difficult thing to do. Contacting a knowledgeable probate attorney, like those at The Mattar Firm, can help you through the process, and work to ensure a proper outcome for you and your family.  Call 239-222-2222 or 844-444-4444 today.

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