For the most part, contested wills arise out of an heir’s (or potential heir’s) sense that a deep injustice has been done. Estate fights commonly break out between siblings who have a longstanding rivalry or stepparents and their deceased’s spouse’s children from a prior marriage simply because those relationships are often already strained.
However, contesting a will is harder than most people realize. There are really only a few valid reasons that you can contest a will. They include the following:
- The will wasn’t completed in accordance with state laws. For example, a Florida will must be signed in the presence of two witnesses, and the witnesses must also sign, in order for it to be valid.
- The deceased lacked the capacity to make the will. If a will was made — or altered — after the deceased developed dementia, for example, it’s ripe for a challenge.
- The will was obtained by some kind of fraud. The deceased may have been coerced or deceived into creating a will that favors one heir over another – or perhaps the entire will is a forgery.
- The deceased was unduly influenced in some way. Maybe one heir manipulated the mind of the deceased before their death so that they could make a grab for the lion’s share of the estate.
Will disputes can often be avoided by having some frank discussions with your heirs before you are gone. At the very least, it allows you to better anticipate a dispute over your will and take steps to prevent your wishes from being thwarted. An estate planning attorney can help you decide how to handle a potentially difficult family situation.