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How do will contests work?

If you are considering contesting someone’s will, there are two questions you should ask yourself. Can I and should I?

The law is clear on who can contest and a will and why. As to whether you should, only you can make that decision.

On what grounds can you contest a will?

If you wish to challenge a will, you need to be someone named in it or an earlier version of the will. If you would be due to inherit if there were no will, that also gives you the right to challenge, even if you were never actually named in the will. Here are the grounds on which you can file a contest:

  • Fraud: For example, you do not believe the signature on the document is accurate. Remember, if someone made a will when they were suffering from ill-health, it might have affected their ability to hold a pen or write fluidly.
  • Lack of testamentary capacity: If the person changed their will while suffering from severe mental health issues, you might allege they were incapable of understanding their actions.
  • Errors: Like any legal document, a will needs to meet specific requirements to hold up in court.
  • Undue influence: If your mother suddenly changed her will to give everything to your sister, who had been looking after her exclusively during her final months, it might be that your mom was grateful. Or it could be that your sister used her position to persuade your mother to make the change.

In short, you can’t contest a will simply because you dislike its terms. You have to have a reason that the law recognizes as sufficient to overturn the testator’s will.

Why might you not want to contest a will?

Will disputes are rarely pretty and will definitely lead to personal conflicts. If a will contest means taking on family, the consequences could last a lifetime. Understanding more can help you make a wise decision about how to proceed and explore more potential solutions to the problem.