Grounds for Will Contests

If you believe that the will of a family member or loved one is invalid, then you will need to bring a formal legal action to the court. The courts will hold you responsible to find evidence that the will does not accurately reflect the wishes of the person who created it, called the testator.

You may contest a will under the following legal grounds:

Lack of Mental Capacity: in order to create a will, an individual must understand the value of their assets and who should inherit those assets. If you can prove that the testator was not fully capable of comprehending the action he or she was taking, then you may be able to invalidate the will. Evidence for this could include records from a doctor's visit near the date of signing or witness testimony.

Undue Influence: if another person put pressure or forced the testator to benefit a certain group, then the will could be voided. An individual could have used his or her position to influence the testator, or even detained the testator until he or she agreed to the provisions. Caregivers are often accused of undue influence, as they can have unhindered access over their charge.

Fraud: a testator might have been presented with a document that they believed was something other than a will. Because the testator can't be questioned about his or her belief about the document, it is very difficult to prove that fraud was committed. If there were any witnesses to the signing, then they may able to attest to any misrepresentation. They can also state why they attended the signing, which would give further insight into any issues.

In Conflict with State Law: each state has its own rules regarding wills. In order for a will to be valid, the will must be created according to these laws. Some states require that witnesses be present and sign in the presence of one another while others require notarization. You may be able to prove that proper procedure was not taken when the will was created, which would cause it to be void. There may also be mistakes on the will, which affected your inheritance. This could also be cause for invalidation.

Remember that you must provide evidence from the time of the will's signing, which often are many years prior. If your situation falls into one of the aforementioned situations, then you may be able to successfully contest a will.

Contact a competent estate planning lawyer in your area to find out the evidence you should gather. Medical records and statements from family members are a good place to start; however, your case may require different documentation.