Over the past several years, several high-profile cases involving disputed wills have surfaced in the news, including Kasey Kasem, Prince, George Michael, and many others. However, just like celebrities, everyday people go through the same battles. In response to the question of whether an attorney can help, the answer is yes. Will and probate attorneys specialize in this area of law, and because of that, they can provide sound legal advice.
If you need to challenge a will, it is important to hire the best attorney possible. By law, you can do this only under certain circumstances. For instance, you can challenge a will if it does not meet formal requirements, meaning it does not contain two witness signatures. You can also challenge a will if the individual who created it was not in a legal capacity to do so and if the will was made by the decedent under suspicious circumstances, including a mistake, improper influence, and even fraud.
- Flawed Document – Under current law, a will must be signed by the maker, as well as two adults who serve as witnesses. However, in certain states, if the maker of the will handwrites everything out, then witnesses are not required.
- Inadequate Capacity – In this case, the individual making the will must have what is known as “testamentary capacity.” That means that at the time the decedent created the will, he or she was of sound mind. Typically, capacity also requires the will maker to be at least 18 years old. However, in some states, the age requirement is different but only if the person serves in the military or is You can also challenge a will if you can show that the will maker did not create the document by choice but was instead influenced improperly by someone else.
- Suspicious Activity – If you believe the creation of a will was suspicious, perhaps a mistake or done by fraud, then you have the legal right to challenge it. For example, you may think that someone forged the decedent’s name or that a person inserted additional pages after the decedent signed the will.
After hiring an attorney, an investigation will ensue to gain a better understanding of the concern, to identify problems, and to talk with potential witnesses. From there, your attorney will file a petition with the probate court based on the state’s legal requirements since they vary from one state to another.
Although you have every right to challenge a will if you believe any one of these scenarios exists, there are risks involved. For example, if the will contains a “no contest” clause, you could lose all of your inheritance since this clause states that if someone challenges the will without good cause, that person experiences gift forfeiture. There is also the time and expense of hiring an attorney to consider. Regardless, it usually takes months, if not years, to reach a resolution.
An excellent attorney will help streamline the process so that your challenge is favorable, which will allow you to receive your due inheritance as quickly as possible.