A last will and testament is supposed to be a statement from a deceased individual that states how their property is to be shared and who will have the responsibility of executing the will. Although it doesn't always happen, it's not uncommon to hear of a will being contested. There are specific circumstances that can lead to this. Regardless of how valid the will is, a person can successfully contest a will if the situation fits under these circumstances.

Factors That Form Grounds for Contesting a Will

To fight a will contestation, it's important to understand the grounds under which a will can be contested. There are four grounds for contesting a will:

  1. The necessary legal formalities were not followed when the will was signed e.g. there have to be two witnesses present who are not beneficiaries, minors, or spouses of beneficiaries.

  2. The deceased didn't have the mental capacity to make the will

  3. The deceased was unduly influenced when making the will

  4. Fraudulent means was used to acquire the will

In order to successfully fight a will contestation, you have to be prepared to show that whichever grounds the contesting party is using isn't true.

What Factors Can Lead to a Successful Contestation

There have been many surprising and other not-so-surprising successful contestations. Usually, the contesting party will try to demonstrate fact patterns such as:

  1. The deceased wrote their own will, probably overlooking some of the formalities required by law. A do-it-yourself will may also fail to consider certain 'what if' scenarios.

  2. Systematic isolation: A contesting party will try to show that the testator was being systematically isolated from loved ones by a primary beneficiary in the will. If this is proven, the will can be invalidated as a result of undue influence.

  3. The contesting party may try to prove that the deceased lacked the capacity to make a will at the time they were signing the will. They can try to do this using medical documents and other evidence.

The Key to Fighting a Contestation

If a will is being contested and you wish to fight the contestation, you should know the grounds under which the will is being contested and find evidence that can debunk these theories. You should also have an estate planning attorney who has experience handling such cases. An experienced attorney will be familiar with the methods the contesting party may wish to use to win the case.