Wills usually go through without a problem. Well over 90% of wills have no issue making it through probate. However, there are several grounds you may have to contest a will. As a beneficiary, or someone who would gain from a will, there are legal challenges you can bring to impact the execution of a will.
In this article, we’ll go over some of the most common grounds for contesting a will and how to work with an attorney to start the process.
1. Will Contest Based on Age
Age is one of the least common issues, but it does come up. A person must be of legal status to create a will. At the time of the will’s creation, an individual will need to be either:
- At least 18 years old
- In the military
- A legally emancipated
2. Will Contest Based on Mental State
Will’s require the creator to be of “sound mind” or stable mental condition when created. The courts require the person who created the will:
- Understood what a will is and does
- Understood they were making a will
- Understood who they should provide for (spouse, children, etc.)
- Understood what they owned
- Could decide how to distribute their property
A person will need to be severely impaired for the courts to take action based on mental capacity.
3. Will Contest Based on Fraudulent or Undue Influence
A will can be thrown out if the court decides there was pressure put on the creator of the will. In this situation, there is one selfish person who typically has a position of trust with the will creator. Some examples of individuals who could exert this fraudulent pressure are caregivers or dissatisfied children. Beware, some manipulators may send the money or property to someone other than themselves to hide the trail of their wrongdoing.
4. Will Contest Based on the Contents of the Will
A will typically needs to include:
- Clearly state that it is a will of the person who wrote it
- Must include a section stating what property will go to what person or appointing a guardian for a minor
- Name an executor, or personal representative, to carry out the requests in the will; if unnamed, the court will appoint an executor.
5. Will Contest Based on Witnesses
Typed wills must be dated and signed in the presence of no less than two adult witnesses. The witnesses should not be named as beneficiaries in the will. If they are, the part of the will that benefits them will be void.
Handwritten wills can be more easily contested if witnesses are not named or the handwriting is illegible. In these cases, it is best to consult a legal expert.
How to Contest a Will with an Estate Planning Attorney
There are online tools to create your own will. If you are a beneficiary of a will that you believe has an issue, we recommend that you seek legal advice from an estate planning attorney with experience contesting invalid wills. The Attorneys at Aldrich Legal Services have helped people in Plymouth, Ann Arbor, and the surrounding area protect their legal entitlements for more than 21 years.