An Inside Look at What Happens When Someone Contests a Will

The primary risk of writing your own will or filling in the blanks on a will template printed from the web is that it will be legally invalid. A legally invalid will can be successfully contested by a family member or other party who claims to be deserving of your hard-earned money and other assets. There is no sense taking even the slightest chance with your assets. Choose Niswanger Law in Monroe, LA for your will along with comprehensive estate planning, and you will rest easy knowing your assets will be distributed as desired even if your will is contested.

An Inside Look at What Happens When Someone Contests a Will with Niswanger Law in Monroe LA image of adult children contesting paperwork with male lawyer

The Basics of Contesting a Will

A child, spouse, or another family member who feels shunned after being excluded from a will can formally contest the will’s validity. Even some caretakers unrelated to the individual who passed away might feel as though they should have been included in the will, setting the stage for a contesting of the legal document in a court of law.

Pro se representation while contesting a will, meaning an individual who represents him or herself during the process, is likely to fail. However, some wills have been successfully contested when a legal attorney spearheads the process. Such a legal challenge can render the will invalid, leading to asset distribution to individuals the testator did not include in the original document. Prepare accordingly with our Monroe, LA attorney’s assistance. You won’t have to worry about such a successful formal legal challenge ruining everything you worked so hard to obtain.

Legal Grounds for Contesting a Will

If the will’s validity is questioned, a judge will determine if it is acceptable in its current form or invalid. Children, former spouses, and estranged relatives sometimes question the validity of a family member’s will in an attempt to override that individual’s desires for bequeathing assets to highly favored family members, friends, charities, and other Monroe, LA parties. In some situations, this legal challenge is legitimate. If the will is not signed and dated by the testator, if the signature is not witnessed, and if it is not properly notarized or otherwise in accordance with the state will requirements, the challenge might prove successful.

Some wills are contested due to supposed undue influence. Suppose a family member believes the deceased individual was pressured by another party when making the will or amending the will. In that case, there is a chance the legal challenge will render the will invalid. Testamentary capacity is also another common challenge. Suppose there is reason to believe the testator was not of sound mind or physically incapable of writing, signing, and understanding the will. In that case, there is a solid legal footing to contest it.

For example, a testator with Alzheimer’s could easily be manipulated into believing they wrote and signed a will. However, if a Court of Protection deputyship is in place ahead of time, the challenge is likely to fail. In some cases, family members have good reason to believe the will is a fraud or forgery.

Though rare, there are some cases where the testator fails to include a financial dependent in their will. Suppose a spouse or child is excluded from the will. In that case, that individual might be offended to the point that they formally contest the will to receive financial compensation to maintain their quality of life.

Suppose the will is contested for a reason other than those detailed above. In that case, it will not be accepted as a legitimate challenge unless that individual is a direct family member such as a child, grandchild, spouse, or financial dependent. Furthermore, an individual who is owed money by the decedent is also legally empowered to contest a will.

The Clock is Ticking

If you are considering contesting a will or worried your will be contested after you depart this plane of existence, you should know there is a limited window of opportunity for such a legal challenge. Those who contest wills prior to the point at which probate is granted have the best chance of succeeding. If the assets have been distributed, contesting the testator’s written plans for asset distribution will prove much more difficult.

Though unlikely, there is a chance the will might be determined to be invalid. However, if a prior will was created and determined to be legal, assets will be provided to loved ones and others precisely as stated in that valid document. However, if another valid will does not exist, the decedent’s assets will be distributed following intestacy laws.

Schedule an Appointment Today

Niswanger law in Monroe, LA, is here to ensure your will is entirely valid. We set the stage to quash all potential legal challenges after you transition out of this plane of existence. Alternatively, if you are considering contesting a will, we will determine if you have legal justification for doing so and pursue justice on your behalf. Contact us today at 318.953.0071 to schedule an appointment with our Monroe, LA attorneys.