In most situations, it is extremely difficult to challenge a decedent’s Last Will and Testament. As the testator, or person who wrote the will, is no longer here to speak about the bequests made in the will, wills are explicitly followed when they pass through probate court.
There are a few situations in which a will can be contested, however. If you or a loved one believe that a will is invalid or was fraudulently written, an estate planning lawyer is your best resource to learn about your legal options. While wills often go unchallenged, the following includes a few valid reasons in which a will may successfully be contested.
There are some situations in which the testator may have executed a will without having testamentary capacity, meaning he or she lacked the mental capacity to understand what he or she was doing when they executed the will. Although such situations are rare, the testamentary capacity of the testator can be used to challenge or contest a will if the individual in question suffered from senility, dementia, or insanity at the time the will was written.
In creating a will, the testator must understand and be able to provide information pertaining to the extent and value of property to be included, as well as potential beneficiaries. Furthermore, the testator must understand that the act of creating a will determines the distribution of property and assets in the event of death.
If you believe that the written contents of the will were manipulated by an outside influence, you can challenge a will on the basis of fraud, forgery, or undue influence.
A testator may choose to update his or her will periodically– a situation that may result in multiple versions of a will if the older copies are not destroyed. Wills are always signed and dated, so if there is a more recent version of the will available, it will trump all outdated copies.
In Maryland, Wills must be written, dated, signed by the Testator, and witnessed by two individuals over the age of eighteen.
If the will was not signed by appropriate witnesses, it may be challenged.
Although each state has different stipulations about what must be included in a will for it to be valid, most states require that the will:
Depending on the grounds for contesting the will, a successful challenge will result in a void in all or part of the document. In some cases, a prior provision from an older version of the document will be reinstated. In others, the document will be voided and the courts will distribute the property pursuant to the laws of intestacy.
If you have reason to believe that a loved one’s will is not valid, contact a Towson wills lawyer at the Law Offices of Jayme L. Levy, LLC to discuss your legal options. Contact us online or call 410-512-6605 to schedule a consultation in our Towson office, where we represent clients in Ellicott City, Columbia, Baltimore County, and Howard County.