How do I contest a will?

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Wills Lawyer St. Peters, Missouri

When it comes to a person’s last will and testament, it can be a very sensitive topic. Unfortunately few people are comfortable sharing his or her plans with loved ones. The result is often surprise when the person has passed and the family members hear the will for the first time. Some family members may become concerned that the will does not actually reflect what the deceased had discussed in conversation, there might be some concern as to the validity of the will. Although the court will not waste time listening to pleas of unfairness, there are some grounds for ruling a will invalid. The following information explores those grounds.

Who can contest a will?

State laws may vary slightly on who has a right to contest or challenge a will. The first step is for the individual to prove he or she has “standing”. Without standing, the court will not pursue any further investigation. Typically, in order to have standing, one must prove that he or she stands to gain or lose according to the will. It could be a spouse, a child or even a creditor. However, this is a bit tricky as the court is not likely to consider the claim that a beneficiary feels he or she should have been left more.

What makes a will valid?

Although state laws may vary on the specifics of will validity, most agree that it must be written and signed by the testator (or representative of the testator) and signed by two witnesses.

What makes a will invalid?

It is very difficult to prove a will invalid. Probate courts and state laws are in place to protect an individual’s wishes post-mortem. However, there are some situations that may warrant a closer look:

  • Mental state of the testator at the time of creating and signing the will
  • Negatively influenced by another person to write the will a certain way
  • Clerical error by the attorney or person who wrote the will
  • Forgery- if a will is written and signature is forged without the testator’s knowledge

What happens if the court agrees that the will is invalid?

If the probate court deems a will invalid, it will be discarded. The court will approach the case as though there were no will from the beginning. It will then be the responsibility of the probate judge to decide how to distribute the estate.

Ultimately, most courts will agree that it is quite difficult to prove that a will is invalid. The first step is for the person contesting the will to verify that he or she has “standing”. Once that is established, the person with standing will need to prove how the will is invalid. The claim that he or she did not receive what he or she deserves is not an argument the court will consider. If you are thinking about contesting a will, you should contact a wills lawyer St. Peters, Missouri relies on at Legacy Law Center today to set up a consult.