7 Credible Causes Why Your Family Can Contest a Will

Having a will is one of the best ways to ensure that your wishes are followed after you pass away. Unfortunately, families and friends aren’t always happy with the content of those documents – especially when they don’t get what they want. In most cases, the worst thing that happens will be hurt feelings. In others, though, people may have credible reasons to challenge your will. The following reasons are, according to Brisbane Wills CNG Law, among the more credible reasons why family members might challenge your will.

Mistake

In many cases, a will be challenged because the family thinks that there’s a possible mistake. There’s a number that’s out of place, a piece of property that’s labeled incorrectly, or something else that makes the statements in the will factually wrong. While some mistakes are generally considered benign and won’t impact the validity of the document, others are serious enough to call into question whether or not the will is actually valid.

Undue Influence

If something changes in a will at the last moment, people almost always look for a reason. One that’s often quickly – and sometimes properly – called out is the possibility of undue influence when one party suddenly receives a disproportionate amount of inheritance compared to their relationship with the testator.

Undue influence is actually very common when it comes to relationships with the elderly, so this isn’t necessarily as spurious a claim as you might imagine. In many cases, though, undue influence can be alleged simply because an older family member becomes close to a family member or caregiver in later years even though they might have had a falling out with others in the past.

Incapacity

Under the law, a person must be of sound mind to legally create a will. As such, one of the most credible reasons to challenge a will is when the family feels like the testator did not actually have the legal capacity to create or modify the document. In these cases, the family will argue that the deceased simply did not have the mental capacity to properly make any changes to a will or to set up his or her estate.

Capacity is a problematic issue because there are a host of problems that can reduce an individual’s capacity to understand his or her legal situation. Degenerative diseases, injuries, and even senility can be cited as reasons for an individual’s will to be declared invalid on the grounds of incapacity, but the family generally needs to have some kind of psychological or physiological evidence to suggest that the testator was unable to make safe decisions for himself for herself.

Fraud

Sometimes a family will suspect that a will isn’t valid because the family member could not make a decision for himself or herself, but rather because the document created or signed by the family member wasn’t exactly what it purported to be. Fraud comes in a staggering number of forms, ranging from someone tricking the deceased into signing the document thinking it was something else to a person altering the contents of the will without the deceased’s knowledge. What is important, though, is that the family believes that something happened in order to make the testator agree to a document to which he or she might otherwise have rejected.

Because there are many types of fraud, there are many potentially credible reasons to allege fraud when the will is challenged. Everything from a signature not looking like the deceased’s usual signature to the presence of potential alterations can play a role in the challenge. What’s important, though, is that the family feels something isn’t quite right with the document.

Invalid Format

Sometimes the reason for a challenge has less to do with the contents of a will and more to do with the form. Depending on the state, a will may or may not be valid based on a number of factors. The family might argue that a particular will needs to be thrown out because it wasn’t properly witnesses, properly filed, or even because it didn’t follow the proper format for a will in that state.

When wills are challenged for construction reasons, it’s generally because the family feels like the will wasn’t properly made. This goes back to some of the other reasons on the list, namely those that surround the family member’s lack of competence or undue influence on the creation of the document.

Suspicious Change

Family members may also challenge a will because they have noticed a recent change to the document that goes wildly against the intent of previous versions of the will. If someone is suddenly disinherited without any known cause or the deceased names a new heir without informing anyone else, there might be cause for a challenge. This has less to do with the law, though, and more to do with the feelings of the family.

In most cases, sudden changes will immediately be challenged on more formal grounds. Again, this can go back to fraud, undue influence, or even competency. The family’s choice to pursue, though, almost always lies on their assumptions of the deceased’s desires.

Exclusion

Exclusion is another common reason for challenging a will. It is most often seen when someone is left out of a will, but is not mentioned within the documents at all. It’s possible, for example, for the family to argue that one or more possible heirs were left out of the document, not because of any reason on the part of the testator, but rather because someone simply made a mistake. That’s why it’s so important to be incredibly clear about what you do – and do not – want in your will before you sign the final document.

There are legitimate for your will to be challenged under the law. As such, it’s in your best interest to work with an attorney to ensure that the validity of your will. Though most wills are never challenged, it’s always best to leave behind a document that’s secure from challenges.

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