Contesting a will can be a very difficult procedure that presents some unique challenges in court. Most wills go through probate without any problems. However, every once and a while, something will halt the proceedings. If a will fails to meet certain requirements, or the will maker was not legally of age or sound mind, then a beneficiary is allowed to challenge it after the will maker’s death. There are several legal grounds on which a beneficiary can base a legal challenge.
What Are the Legal Grounds a Beneficiary Can Contest a Will On?
- Age: A will maker must have been 18 years or older, or living in one of the few states that allows a younger person to make a will only if they are married, in the military, or somehow “emancipated”
- Mental state: A will maker has to have been of “sound mind” when the will was created. The will maker must have known what a will does and that he or she is in the process of making one. He or she must have known who they would normally be expected to provide for (spouse or children). In addition, he or she must have known what they owned and how they would distribute the property.
- Undue influence or fraud: A will can be challenged and labeled as invalid if a court determines that it was made by fraud, forgery, or undue influence.
- Contents of the will itself: Most states require that the documents expressly state that it’s the will of the person who actually wrote it. In addition, the documents must include at least one substantive provision or clause leaving property to someone and must appoint an executor.
- Witnesses: A typed and/or computer printed will must have been signed and dated in the presence of at least two other adults. The witnesses usually cannot be people who are named to inherit property under the will.
- Notarization: Wills don’t have to be notarized to be valid, but some wills include a sworn statement that all witnesses sign in front of a notary public. This means the witnesses don’t have to come to court later to swear that the will is valid.
- Residence: A will is valid in any state where the maker of the will died if it was valid under the laws of that state where the will maker lived.