Legal Grounds for Disputing a Will's Contents

Law Blog

When a loved one dies and leaves behind an estate, surviving loved ones expect a will to reflect their true wishes. However, expectations do not often come to fruition as far as wills go. In fact, disputed wills are pretty common since heirs to an estate have a right to contest the contents of wills. That said, you cannot just hire a lawyer and go to court to contest a loved one's will. Ideally, you should have valid reasons to dispute a will, and a lawyer attorney will help you determine the grounds on which to make such claims. This article highlights legal grounds for contesting a will.

Absence of a Statement on Multiple Wills 

Creating several wills throughout a person's life is relatively common. The reason is that different life events dictate what someone adds or deducts from their will. Therefore, you should not be surprised to find more than one will when a loved one dies unexpectedly. Notably, courts usually use the latest will to distribute a deceased's estate, but only if it contains a statement expressing that the most recent will overrides the other documents. If the statement does not exist, any heir has a right to dispute a will's contents. A statement is critical because it explicitly revokes previous wills, preventing heirs from making personal conclusions regarding assets distribution.

Irregularities in Signing the Document 

A will is only valid if the deceased and two other witnesses have appended their signatures on the document. While it might seem like a straightforward requirement, you will be surprised to learn that it is not. The reason is that the two witnesses must be present and in the same room for their signatures to be considered valid. Therefore, if you have proof that one of the witnesses was not present when signing the document, you have legal grounds to dispute the contents. You can do it, although a will might have all three authentic signatures as required by law. However, the onus is on you to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the witness in question was not present in the room when a loved one was signing their will.

Undue influence 

A valid will is only created out of a testator's free will. Therefore, when a loved one makes a will, and they pass on, the first order of business is to establish whether they created the will free of pressure from external sources. The reason is that as people age, they become vulnerable to exploitation by family and relatives who can use their relations to coerce a loved one into writing a will favouring a few individuals. Notably, proving that a testator was coerced into writing and signing the will is often a tall order for plaintiffs because they must provide sufficient evidence to support the claims.

Contact a local will and estate lawyer to learn more about contested wills.


30 November 2021

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