A will is an official document stating the assets and possessions of the dead person and what they want to do with them after they’ve gone. There may be instances where someone is not satisfied with the terms of a will. Here are some solid and effective grounds for contesting a will that you can apply:
What is a Will Contest?
A will contest is an official objection that can be raised to question the validity and credibility of the will. This objection is based on the premise that the contents of the will are not reflecting or expressing the actual wishes of the testator. The will can be challenged on the grounds of the testator’s mental instability or the possibility of some fraud or foul play. You can question the will on the whole or contest some sections of it that you find objectionable.
Grounds for Contesting a Will
One cannot simply challenge or contest the will just because you do not like it. You need some solid legal grounds for contesting a will and questioning its contents. Here are some of the instances and scenarios where a will can be challenged in a court of law:
Lack of Mental Capacities
Under this clause, the contester may question the discretionary abilities and sanity of the testator before he/she had formulated the will. In layman’s terms, it claims that the will was drafted and asserted by the person when he/she wasn’t in possession of his/her mental faculties. The law regarding the significance of testament capacity varies from country to country. For instance, in the UK, the contester needs to present valid proof and medical records to certify his/her claim of the testator being mentally ill or insane.
Insanity or Delusion of Testator
Another important ground for contesting a will is insane delusion, a condition where the testator is said to draft the will influenced by some misguided idea or prejudice that has no grounds in reason. Any form of irrational belief can be said to be a case of delusion, and any decision or legal document formulated under these conditions can be challenged by the parties involved.
One such case of deluded insanity was registered in Florida in 2006, and is the most cited of the cases in this regard. Therefore, the testator drafted a new will under the influence of high pain medication and drugs. Upon her death the next day, the contents of the will revealed that the person had left all her possessions to different charities and not to the caretaker, who was the major beneficiary of the earlier will. The caretaker then presented their case in court and contested the will under the insane delusion clause. After ample support, psychiatrist proof and eye-witness accounts, the new will was deemed null and void.
Duress and Use of Influence
The third reason why the will can be challenged is when the contester can prove that the will was drafted or signed using force or coercion. It also includes a condition where the family or close ones of the testator pressurised him/her or influenced their decision for their malicious and selfish reasons. The threat of force, blackmail, kidnapping and other forms of physical and mental torture to trigger the drafting of the will also fall under the category of duress.
One downside to this clause is that undue influence often doesn’t have any believable or tangible proof. In some states, the onus of this clause falls upon the attorney who has drafted the will and advised the testator on what to do with their money and assets.
Fraud and Forgery
There might be a case of debauchery or forgery involved to change the contents of the entire will or a certain section of it. There are four basic types of fraud that can be legally contested:
- The facts are twisted or warped to suit the benefactor
- The perpetrators are aware of falsehoods attached to the claim but endorse it nonetheless
- Physical violence or threat of injury is used as a triggering force to pressurise the testator
- When the testator is intentionally misled by the attorney or a trusted party that leads to a change in decision
Forgery is when the contents or the signature of the testator are illegally duplicated. The “Mormon Will” case involving the business tycoon Howard Hughes is a notable case that is oft-cited for this clause.
Last but not least, technical flaws can be among the most basic and straightforward grounds for contesting a will. The will may have been drafted the wrong way or not adhere to the regulations and format set by a court of law, deeming it null and void. The will must have the necessary legal jargon and witnesses to certify the contents.