What Are The Chances Of Success In A Will Contest?
Most wills are probated and distributed without legal issues or problems. But will contests do happen. What are the chances of a will contest being successful and what can you do to make sure that your will is not contested after you pass?
Who Can Contest a Will?
Anybody with a stake in the outcome of a case, can contest a will. That includes anybody who thinks that they should have gotten something (or gotten more) from a will than they were actually left in the will.
Normally, challengers include family members. However, someone who was left something in a will, and then had their interest deleted when the will was amended, could also contest the will.
Using an Estate Attorney
Courts disfavor altering a will, or invalidating a will, but it happens. In most cases, where a will was drawn up by and executed with the help of an estate attorney, the will is likely to be found valid; most estate attorneys understand the potential problems down the road, and know how to avoid them.
Disease and Illness
Wills executed (or amended) after someone has been diagnosed with a disease, are more likely to be struck down. Mental capacity is absolutely required when altering or making wills. Many people change wills when they are sick, infirm, or suffering from some kind of mental or physical disability.
One thing courts will look at when wills are challenged, is who helped someone change or make a will and does that person have an interest in the will itself. This creates a natural conflict of interest. For example, imagine someone’s realtor helping them alter their will, to leave the property in the realtor’s name after the client passes away.
Whenever there is a fiduciary or familial relationship, and the will changes to benefit that person or fiduciary, there is a good chance that there may have been coercion or influence that could invalidate the will.
As you can see, these cases, where an interested party gets a benefit from a will or a change in a will, can also be accompanied by incapacity—many people who are not mentally capable of altering or making a will, are manipulated by others seeking a benefit from the will.
Less common, but still alleged, is forgery. Sometimes this is purposeful and nefarious, where someone completely fakes a signature on a will. Other times, people sign for the deceased because he “told me it was Ok to do so” or they will say “he wanted me to sign for him, he just couldn’t do it himself.”
If you want to contest a will, there are strict deadlines to do so. A will contest attorney can help you file your objection, and get a copy of the will that you feel needs to be overturned.
Call the Torrance estate planning attorneys at Samuel Ford Law today for help with any estate planning need that you may have.