What are the Grounds for a Will Contest?

While some families are transparent about their intentions over how their assets will be distributed upon their death, others keep the details to themselves and prefer to have their heirs learn about their plans after they are gone.

Being open about one's estate plans does not necessarily preclude will contests from occurring, however, openness can help reduce the incidence of families quarreling over the distribution of assets upon a testator's death.

When Will Contests Arise

Will contests are unusual, but they do happen. If a will doesn't meet the legal requirements, or if the maker of the will was under undue influence, or not of sound mind, then a would-be beneficiary is within their rights to challenge the will. Such contests are usually executed in the probate court in the county where the decedent passed away.

Common grounds for contesting a will, include:

  • Fraud
  • Duress
  • Forgery
  • Insane delusion
  • Technical flaws
  • Undue influence
  • Mental incapacity, not being of "sound mind"
  • A handwritten, unwitnessed will

In a legal sense, a will contest is an objection against the validity of a will. The individual contesting the will is arguing that the will does not reflect the intentions of the testator (the person who made the will), or that the will is invalid for another reason.

Depending on the facts of the case, the consequences of a will contest may result in: 1) reinstatement of an earlier will, 2) invalidity of a specific clause or gift, or 3) a reduction in certain gifts and an increase in others.

Generally, those who have legal standing to contest the validity of a will in the United States includes those who are named in the will (a beneficiary), and those who would inherit from the decedent if the will is ultimately deemed invalid by a probate court.

To learn more about will contests and estate litigation, reach out to a probate lawyer!