The death of a loved one can bring up difficult emotions. For families reeling from the impact of a loved one’s death, the addition of a family dispute over the estate of the deceased can create family strife and irreparable damage. When you contest a will, substantial evidence is necessary to petition the court and make a successful claim.
Challenging a will through probate
To challenge a will, you must either question the procedure that created the will or the actual substance of the will. A will contest takes place as a proceeding within the probate process. Probate is typically the process by which a court executes a will, identifies benefactors and heirs, pays off debts and taxes, and distributes the remaining assets according to the testator’s wishes. In Florida, the law permits an individual to contest a loved one’s will due to three criteria:
- Undue influence: In some cases, the testator may be influenced by another party to create a particular outcome in the will for some benefit to the influencer that may be against the testator’s exact wishes.
- Fraud: If the testator was a victim of fraud, or if coercion was a factor in the will, the will might be invalid. The types of fraud most common in a contested will include forged signatures and a lack of witnesses to the drafting and signing.
- Mental capacity: If the testator is not of sound mind when the will is created and executed, this kind of incapacity could invalidate a will. Conditions like declining health or degenerative brain disease can potentially make the testator legally unable to fulfill the criteria for a valid will.
Deciphering your loved one’s true wishes
Nobody wants to think of their loved one operating in error or being taken advantage of. Everyone wants to ensure that their loved one’s last requests are honored in the way that they saw fit. If you think that a will fulfills the criteria for a valid contest, contact an attorney experienced in estate planning to consider your options.