A Will contest is a legal claim that there is some reason that a will is legally invalid. These lawsuits are often brought by family members who are left out of Wills or feel that they did not get as much as they should have from a will. At its core, a Will contest challenges whether the Will truly reflected their loved one’s final wishes.
Unfortunately, Will contest claims are often extremely contentious. They bring up a lot of turmoil in families, including years of the underlying conflict.
Knowing and understanding some of the most common reasons that Will contest claims occur can help those drafting a will avoid future conflict among loved ones.
To execute a Will, the testator (person who is signing the Will) must have the mental capacity to execute this legal document. The capacity to execute a Will is not the same as the capacity to enter a contract or another legal document. Instead, capacity involves showing that the following is true:
In some situations, health conditions cloud capacity, which ends up making a Will invalid.
If someone else had a disproportionate or inappropriate amount of influence over the making of a Will, the Will can be set aside as well. The most common example is where a child who is also a testator’s caretaker convinces the testator that the Will should be drafted a certain way or revised to give that caretaker more property or money.
Defrauding or tricking someone into changing their Will or creating a Will that is not truly reflective of what they want is a good reason to set aside a Will in a Will contest.
You must also meet certain legal requirements to have a valid Will. For example, Wills in California are required to be signed by two witnesses who saw the testator sign the document. If it is not signed by witnesses, it is not legally valid. The result is that will must be set aside.
If there is a prior Will, that document Will be used. If not, then the laws in the State of California must be used to distribute the testator’s assets.