As a beneficiary to an estate who has questions about whether or not documents are valid, one option available to you is to initiate a will contest. A will contest refers to a probate dispute in which you are arguing to the courts that the submitted version of a will is not legally valid. In Florida, a will contest must be initiated in the probate court (circuit court) that has jurisdiction over the estate. Fla. Stat. § 731. 201(7)
It is a very complex proposition to contest a decedent’s last will and testament because this can raise conflicts and emotions within your family. Your reasons for your perfectly legal actions to start a will contest may prove difficult to accept and understand by family members, making it all the more important to retain a Florida will contest attorney as soon as possible.
A decedent must create a will or direct another person to create their will when the decedent has testamentary capacity. This is one of the foundations on which you may be able to challenge the validity of the document with the help of a will contest attorney in Florida. Another common reason for will contests is when a group of individuals or one person in particular has inappropriately influenced the decedent towards the end of their life prompting them to make significant changes to their will or draft a new document altogether. Whether you are currently involved in defending the validity of a will or are seeking to contest the validity of a document, you need to schedule a consultation with a Florida will contest lawyer.
Understanding Validity and Wills
It is critical to understand the factors that determine a will’s validity when making a decision about whether or not to contest a will. If there is no basis regarding the question of the validity of a will then a will contest is a waste of time and can add unnecessary drama with your family. If there is a question as to whether or not the will is valid, however, consulting with a knowledgeable will contest lawyer in Florida will help you understand your options. There are several different statewide requirements for a valid last will and testament which include;
- Whether or not the decedent actually signed the will.
- Whether or not the person who drafted the will was at least 18 years old.
- Whether or not the will was witnessed and signed by at least two individuals.
Furthermore the terms inside the will must meet certain standards and make sense. A surviving spouse, for example, has a right to an elective share unless they have been appropriately excluded. The will might also have some provisions that don’t make sense or cannot be fulfilled, meaning that the explicit terms of the will can be open to contest.
Understanding Undue Influence in Testamentary Capacity
In some cases claims of testamentary capacity, problems in undue influence may arise together in a will contest. In determining whether or not undue influence has happened, a court is looking to see whether or not an outside person has unfairly and unreasonable influenced a testator to draft their will a certain way.
A person who has standing to contest a will can argue that this claim is brought forward on a presumption of undue influence if the person had a confidential relationship with the testator, actively procured the will and was a significant recipient under the new will. Several factors will indicate that the will has been actively procured including the beneficiary suggesting the attorney to draw up the will, the beneficiary’s presence at the will execution, finding witnesses for the will, the beneficiary maintaining possession of the will after it’s been executed, and the beneficiary having knowledge of the contents of a will prior to its execution. State of mind is another important component of a will contest.
A will has to be witnessed in part to prevent against instances of forgery and also to attest to a person’s state of mind. This can be one of the most confusing and difficult aspects on which to bring a will contest claim and it is strongly recommended that you retain experienced legal help when moving forward with a dispute like this.