The Steps to Take if You Disagree with a Will
A Last Will and Testament is a legal document which specifies who receives a deceased person’s estate. A deceased person’s will can be invalidated with a special type of lawsuit known as a will contest. If you have reason to believe that a friend or relative’s will does not accurately express their wishes, you may wish to contest it. But, be aware that the process can be both costly and emotionally draining. If you feel that contesting the will is the best way forward, here are the steps to follow.
#1. Talk to a Professional:
The first step to take if you disagree with a will is to speak with an experienced professional. Any concerns that you have regarding the validity or authenticity of a will should first be discussed with an experienced probate attorney, who’ll be able to provide you with more detailed advice on the next steps to take.
#2. Who Can Contest a Will?
You will only be able to contest a will if you have standing, meaning that the party involved in the lawsuit must be personally affected by the outcome. Only persons who are either an intestate heir or were a beneficiary named in the deceased’s prior will may contest. Once you have determined that you have standing, you’ll need to ensure that you can file in a timely manner. The timeframe you will be given is set out by state laws; this could be anything from a few weeks to a few years, depending on your state.
#3. Do You Have Grounds?
If you have standing and time, the next step is to ensure that you have sufficient grounds to contest the will. If the will was not signed with legal formalities, was fraudulently procured, created under undue pressure or if the deceased was of limited mental capacity, you will have solid grounds to contest.
#4. Mediation and Court Proceedings:
With the help of an experienced lawyer, you may be able to settle the dispute through mediation alone. During this process, estate administration will be frozen whilst parties discuss and come to a fair agreement. If it is not possible to come to an agreement via mediation, probate court proceedings may be ordered. This will leave the outcome in the hands of a judge.
#5. How to Prevent Will Disputes:
If you are in the process of writing a will and want to ensure any disputes are prevented when the time comes, there are several things that you can do. If you’re worried that your will may cause issues after you’re gone but are sure about what you want, you may want to ask your doctor to sign written evidence of your mental capacity. You may also want to consider writing letters to explain your choices to anybody involved, to help others understand your decisions if needed.
Whether you feel that you’ve been left out of a will that you should have been included in or suspect a will has been tampered with or forged, it’s important to contact an experienced legal professional right away to ensure your case is dealt with quickly and efficiently.