Will contests are relatively rare, but they are an important form of protection for both vulnerable adults and their beneficiaries. Most estates go through probate with a few complications. The testator’s documents leave adequate instruction, or the division of property requires probate oversight because someone died without a will on record.
Sometimes, those who expect to inherit from an estate and those closest to a deceased individual will have concerns about the estate plan they supposedly left behind. The will may include terms that seem to contradict what the testator previously explained to the family. In some cases, one person may inherit everything at the expense of all other expectant beneficiaries.
How do you know if you have grounds to contest a will?
When there are signs of undue influence
A last will and testament should be a record of someone’s true wishes regarding their property. There are some individuals who want an inheritance badly enough that they may threaten someone or otherwise exert undue influence so that they received more from the estate than they otherwise would.
Caregivers and spouses are often in positions that make it easier for them to exert undue influence.
When you have reason to suspect fraud
Do the documents look legitimate but include terms that seem absolutely wrong to most of the family? If the person who benefits from those surprise changes is a professional graphic designer, you may have reason to suspect they made fraudulent changes to the documents and created a new version for their own benefit.
On the other hand, you may think that someone tricked the testator into signing documents. If you have reason to suspect fraud, that can be grounds for a will contest as well.
When you believe they lacked legal capacity
Some people make surprising changes to their estate plans in their last years of life because they experience profound changes to their cognition due to health issues.
If the timing of the changes to or creation of an estate document indicates there may already have been issues with their testamentary capacity at that time, you could have challenged the validity of the documents on the grounds that they lack capacity.
Learning more about the more common reasons for will contests and other probate litigation will make it easier for you to decide what steps to take next.