Unfortunately, estate conflicts are widespread and frequently end in broken families and damaged sentiments. Family members not named beneficiaries in a will may feel this is an unjust consequence and strive to remedy the situation.
A will can be contested in court for several reasons. Two of these grounds frequently argued together in a will challenge are that the willmaker (testator) did not comprehend what they were doing when making the will and that someone exercised undue influence on them, resulting in the will not reflecting their genuine intentions. These concerns may be exacerbated if the will was drafted under suspicious circumstances. To learn more, contact an experienced estate planning attorney and schedule an initial consultation today.
What is the impact of suspicious circumstances?
If a will was carried out following the legal requirements and the testator accepted its contents, there is a presumption that the testator can carry out the will. It is up to the individual who questions the will to show contradictory evidence.
If this individual submits information that raises suspicious circumstances, the duty shifts to the person seeking to uphold the will to establish that the testator approved of the will and had the necessary ability at the time the will was executed.
Suspicious circumstances may refer to:
- those associated with will preparation;
- occurrences that throw the testator’s ability into question; or
- Circumstances indicate that force or deception actions trumped the testator’s free will.
Testamentary capability necessitates a sound disposing mind.
To form a valid will, the testator must have the testamentary ability, or what the courts call a sound disposing mind. They must do the following:
- comprehend the significance of a will;
- remember the extent of their assets and property;
- know what property their will will distribute
- consider who would be expected to profit from it; and
- grasp the nature of the assertions that the people they are excluding may make.
Undue influence arises if the will is the product of coercion.
A will can also be declared void if the testator was under undue influence when executed. If the person contesting the will can demonstrate that the will was the result of someone else’s control and dominance over the testator, such that it was the result of coercion and did not represent what the testator truly desired, the court may rule that the will was invalid due to undue influence.
Estate disputes may be complicated and stressful. If you want assistance, contact an experienced attorney immediately.