A will is a legal document specifying those who will receive a person’s property when they die. It also establishes an executor, who will be in charge of settling the estate.
A “will contest” is a lawsuit that seeks to nullify a person’s will after their death. They are filed by individuals who don’t believe the will properly reflects the decedent’s last wishes.
Determining whether to file a will contest
Contesting a will can be a long and emotionally exhausting experience. If you want to move forward with a challenge, consider these three steps:
You must have standing: To contest a will, you must be affected by the outcome of the case. An individual must be an intestate heir, meaning someone who is entitled to receive an inheritance from a decedent who fails to leave a valid will or a beneficiary who was previously named in a will. Entities, such as banks and charities named beneficiaries or fiduciaries in a prior will, can also file contests.
You must file a timely challenge: Texas has six deadlines for contesting a will once it is submitted for probate. State law requires that only named beneficiaries are notified. The process can be complicated as executors or family members have four years from the person’s death to present the will for probate. The best time to challenge a will is before it is submitted.
Grounds for contesting a will: Once you determine that you have standing and meet the time requirements, you must have sufficient reason to mount a challenge. The most common grounds for contesting a will are:
- The document was obtained through fraud
- The decedent lacked the mental capacity to make a will
- Others unduly influenced the decedent
- The will was signed without the proper legal formalities
Gather evidence to back up your claims
Contesting a will can be a lengthy and draining process. If you have evidence to back up your suspicions that a will is not valid, consulting an experienced probate administration lawyer here in Texas can help you determine whether you have a legitimate reason to move forward.