The validity of a will is a topic of paramount importance when it comes to estate administration and inheritance. Families, at times, find themselves in situations where they feel compelled to challenge the legitimacy of a will.
While probate litigation can make the mourning of a loved one even more overwhelming, your family may be better off getting to the truth than letting doubt fester and cause larger family conflicts.
One of the most contentious issues that can lead to challenges against a will involves an unexplained exclusion of a family member or beneficiary. When a close family member, such as a child or spouse, is left out of a will without any apparent reason, it can spark intense disputes. Questions of undue influence or a strained relationship often come into play, and legal intervention may become necessary.
Families may, particularly, challenge the validity of a will when last-minute changes are made, especially if these modifications appear suspicious. Such changes can include alterations to beneficiaries or significant assets, which raise concerns about the testator’s mental capacity or undue influence.
Capacity and influence
The mental ability to make a will is a vital element in helping ensure a will’s validity. In cases where the testator was suffering from a mental illness, dementia or was under duress, challenges can emerge. Families may contest their will, arguing that the testator lacked the mental capacity required to make sound decisions at the time of drafting or modification.
Undue influence is another critical factor that can lead to challenges. It occurs when an individual exerts pressure or coercion on the testator, essentially manipulating them into altering their will. Family members who suspect undue influence often challenge a will’s validity to help ensure a fair distribution of assets and a reflection of their loved one’s true wishes.
Ambiguity and poor draftsmanship
The wording of a will is of utmost importance. If the will contains vague, ambiguous or poorly drafted clauses, it can create confusion and disputes among beneficiaries. Wills must meet specific legal formalities to be considered valid. Failure to adhere to these formalities can result in challenges. For example, if a will lacks the required number of witnesses or the testator’s signature is questionable, the document’s authenticity can be disputed.
Families are inclined to contest the validity of a will under various circumstances, ranging from suspicions of undue influence to concerns about mental capacity. In these situations, legal professionals can play a critical role in resolving disputes and can help to ensure that the testator’s true intentions are honored.