4 Reasons Your Will May Be Contested

Updated: May 20, 2020


Having an updated last will and testament is more important than ever, especially now. However, a will that is poorly created or not frequently updated can be vulnerable to being contested. Will contests should be avoided at all costs. Not only can a contest derail your final wishes, but it can also rapidly deplete your estate and wreak emotional havoc on the family members left behind. Fear not. With proper planning, you can prevent that from happening.


Who can contest a will?

The following people have the ability to contest a will in probate court:

  • Current beneficiaries that are named in the will

  • Previous beneficiaries who were disinherited but were included in a previous will

  • An individual not named in the will but who would be eligible to inherit property based on a state’s intestacy laws (typically a biological child or spouse)

If a will is successfully contested, then the court will declare the will invalid and “throw it out.” If there is a previous will, then the court will abide by those terms. If there are no other estate planning documents, the state’s laws of intestacy will decide who inherits what property. As you might expect, this can be a disastrous outcome for your intended beneficiaries.


What Are the Legal Grounds for Contesting a Will?

If a person does have the legal standing to challenge your will, they must prove that the will is invalid due to one of the four reasons below:

  • The will is incomplete or faulty. Each state has specific laws that dictate how a will or trust must be signed in order for it to be legally valid. A will that has not followed these rules—signed without the proper number of witnesses, signatures missing, or omitting important text—could be contested.

  • Lack of mental capacity. Having the capacity to make a will means that the person understands (a) their assets, (b) their family relationships, and (c) the legal effect of signing a will. Each state has laws that set the threshold that must be overcome to prove that a person lacked sufficient mental capacity to sign a will.

  • The person making the will was unduly influenced into signing it. As people age and become weaker both physically and mentally, others may exert influence over decisions, including how to plan their estate. Undue influence can be exerted on the young and the not so young. Undue influence is more than just nagging or verbal threats. It must be so extreme that it causes you to give in and change your estate plan to favor the undue influencer.

  • The will was procured by fraud. A will or trust that is signed by someone who thinks they are signing some other type of document or a document with different provisions is one that is procured by fraud.


How to Avoid a Will Contest

Considering the time and expense, will contests are something you’ll want to avoid at all costs. Not only would it jeopardize your final wishes but it also causes unnecessary and painful conflict among your loved ones during an already emotionally trying time. To avoid these disastrous and painful scenarios, consider the following:

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