When most relatives and loved ones pass away, the probate process ends up being a mere formality. Their will is rubber stamped, their assets collected, and then distributed to the beneficiaries and everyone goes home with fond memories. The legacy of the deceased is upheld.
Sometimes, unfortunately, all does not go according to plan. There might be a problem with the will, a new testament “discovered”, a key family member left out, unclear language, or any number of other sources of conflict. In these cases the probate process becomes contested, and legal disputes and lawsuits are required to redress these wrongs and, with the help of an attorney, put the estate and legacy back on track.
Here at Sheehan Law, we understand both how important and delicate contested probate processes can be. Our attorneys approach each contested probate case with compassion for the family, and determination to obtain the optimal outcome for our clients.
When Can A Will Or Probate Be Contested In Texas?
Contesting a probate proceeding usually requires contesting the will and testament at the heart of it. This document is the one that ultimately determines how someone’s assets, property, and belongings will be distributed after their death.
In Texas law, there are several possible legal grounds for calling into question a will or the probate procedure. Each one has its own conditions and detailed requirements, but the basic principles are as follows.
- The Will Was Drafted Under Undue Influence – If you believe someone had or exerted excessive influence over the person while they were writing their will, it can be grounds to contest. For example, if it was written under duress or after psychological manipulation by a third party. Undue Influence is commonly claimed, but hard to prove, as you must have evidence that someone had and used their influence to affect the writing of the will.
- There Was Fraudulent Inducement Over The Will – Undue influence is a type of fraud, but it is not the only one which can affect a will. If someone else secretly had a second will signed and put on file, or if the will’s writer (testator) did not end up signing the will they thought they wrote, there could be grounds to challenge it for Fraudulent Inducement.
- The Testator Did Not Have Sufficient Testamentary Capacity – If the testator, the person whose will this is, did not have enough mental capacity to draft or understand the will being written or signed, that is also sufficient grounds to contest. For example, a new will signed by a patient with severe dementia, or while taking mind-altering drugs, might not be valid due to a lack of mental or testamentary capacity.
- Finally, Even If A Will Is Not Contested, Its Outcome Can Be For Improper Execution – if the will seems to be in order, but the outcome of the probate process results in wildly different or unexpected outcomes, you can contest the execution of the will. For example, if a house is sold by an executor far below the market value to a friend, you might have grounds to contest an improper execution.
What Are The Strongest Possible Contested Probate Lawsuits?
While each of the above conditions represents separate and sufficient grounds to call into question a will and contest the probate process or outcome, the strongest cases occur when there are more than one at play at the same time. For example, if your aging grandparent suffering from Alzheimer’s was convinced by an unscrupulous relative to leave them everything in a new will, there might be impaired testamentary capacity and undue influence at play.
What Is The Deadline For Contesting Probate Proceedings Or Outcomes In Texas?
Under Texas law, you have two years to file a lawsuit contesting a probate procedure or outcome. While some cases can be filed during the probate procedure itself, others may be filed months or even a year or more after it is finished. This deadline can be extended, however, by filing a complaint within the period, which then allows you more time to work with your contested probate attorney to develop your case.
The earlier you file however, the better your chances, as it will give you and your attorney more time to work on the case, as well as be easier to uncover relevant testimony and evidence needed to prove your case. So if you are considering contesting, the best time to contact an attorney near you is now.
Your Pflugerville Texas Contested Probate Dispute Attorney
If you believe your loved’s one’s estate has been tampered with, or find yourself unjustly excluded from their will, you should reach out to an attorney to see if you can bring forward a contested probate lawsuit.
Alternatively, if someone is challenging your loved one’s lawsuit groundlessly, or trying to profit unfairly from the death of your loved one, it might be time to consult with an attorney capable of defending their estate and legacy.
Here at Sheehan Law PLLC, we know how delicate probate disputes are, and the importance of having an experienced attorney on your side during any contested probate process. You do not have to go through contested probate alone, contact an attorney to help at (512) 355-0155.