Common Reasons to Contest a Will
Feb 26, 2020
Typically, the reason someone challenges or contests a will is because they were excluded from receiving a portion of the estate or received a reduced portion. Just because someone doesn’t like the terms of the will is not reason to contest a will. There are rules for each state that the Last Will and Testament need to meet. Contesting a will can be difficult and expensive process through the probate court, so understanding the legal reason to contest a will is important.
NOT EXECUTED PROPERLY
In the State of Wisconsin, the will needs to be in writing. It needs to be signed and have two witnesses’ signatures. The witnesses should not be beneficiaries in the will. If the will fails to meet these criteria, there are legal grounds to contest the will. Having a lawyer draft the will often eliminates claims on improper execution.
Any person 18 or older of “sound mind” may make or revoke a will. If the person was not in the mental state to understand what they were signing, their competency may be in question. If they can understand their assets, who their heirs were and the scope and effect of their will, they have the mental capacity to make or revoke a will. However, it is important to draft all estate planning documents before your mental capacity is diminished to avoid it being questioned. Having an attorney draft your will can lessen the claims of lacked capacity. The attorney and staff can testify to your mental state at the time of drafting your will.
A will can be ruled invalid if the person was unduly influenced at the time of signing. Undue influence is some type of force, threat or manipulation to do something that they wouldn’t normally do. Physical disability or age can cause someone to be susceptible to influence. An example would be a sibling who became the sole caretaker of an elderly parent and had control of their finances and most aspects of their daily life. They manipulated the elderly parent into signing a will that designates them as the sole beneficiary, excluding other siblings. One hates to think that someone would take advantage of their relationship or position, but it happens. Having an attorney draft your will can help reduce undue influence claims. An attorney will meet with you individually and confirm the changes to your will are solely that of your choosing. They may also document the reason why you choose to include or exclude a beneficiary.
LATER WILL EXISTS
There is no expiration date on a will. However, a very old will could be out of date and may have been updated. Most people revoke their old will by making a new one. If the probate process is started using an older will, and a newer will is found, there are legal grounds for contesting. It is important when you are making a new will to destroy any previous wills to avoid any confusion.
To ensure your assets are distributed according to your wishes, make sure your will is drafted correctly and will hold up in court if contested. Having an Attorney draft your will can eliminates many worries. Pedersen Law Office, LLC offers free consults in all our areas of practice and will meet with you personally to discuss your specific circumstances and goals. Our law office serves the communities of Appleton, Neenah, Menasha, Oshkosh, Green Bay and their surrounding areas.