Contesting a Will

When beneficiaries feel that property has been divided unfairly after an individual's death, they may be interested in contesting a will. However, many people try to contest legal wills when they are unhappy with how the property has been divided. There are several avenues where contesting a will may be successful, as well as reasons that are not valid enough to contest a will.

Invalid Versus Unsatisfactory
A will can be found to be invalid if it has not met the basic rules and requirements for a will in that state. For example, most states say that legal wills must be written by a testator over 18 years old, not under any influence of drugs or alcohol and of sound mind. Wills can also be found invalid if some technical impropriety is discovered, such as if the will contains a mistake or if there is evidence of diminished mental capacity.

A will cannot be contested simply because the beneficiaries are unhappy with how the testator has divided the property. Unless there is some evidence of improper creation of the will, such as fraud, undue pressure or the testator lacked normal mental fitness, a court will not allow legal wills to be contested because of unfairness. While some beneficiaries may be unhappy with how someone divided their property and assets, as long as the will was drawn up correctly, it is binding in a court of law.

What Happens If the Will Is Ruled Invalid?
If beneficiaries try to contest a will and it is successful, the court rules that the property is now "intestate" and proceeds as if a will was never created. The court can also determine if all or just part of the will is invalid and makes a decision based on evidence and testimony. Some testators, determined to avoid conflicts among family members over a will, will include a no contest clause that specifies that if anyone contests the will, they lose what has been left to them.

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The purpose of a will is to distribute a person's assets, according to their wishes, upon their death. But what if you feel a last will doesn't accurately reflect the wishes of the deceased? In this situation, you'll need to contest the document. Contested wills involve a complex legal process, and you should go into it armed with an understanding of the associated steps and requirements.

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