What is a Will Contest?

29 May, 2018

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According to the law of property, Will Contests are formal objections raised against the validity of a will. These are based on the contention that a will does not properly reflect the real intents of the testator (the party who makes the will) or that the document is, in fact, invalid. A will contest is usually focused on the assertion that the testator lacked testamentary capacity, was operating under an insane delusion, or was subject to undue influence or fraud.

 


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Through Will Contests, wills can be completely or partially challenged. Since courts and legislation have a strong obligation to uphold the final wishes of a testator, without compelling evidence of the contrary, the presumption of the law is that a will is valid and accurately reflects the wishes of the person who wrote it. Nevertheless, a will can include an In Terrorem clause, which serves the purpose of disinheriting any person who challenges the validity of the will. These no-contest clauses are permitted under the Uniform Probate Code, which most American states follow, even if they only do so in a partial way. However, since the clause is within the will itself, the right challenge to the will would successfully render the clause meaningless.

In the US, will contests are more common than in any other country. The prevalence of will contests in America comes partly from US law giving people a large degree of freedom in disposing of their property but also because “a number of incentives for suing exist in American law outside of the merits of the litigation itself”.

In most cases, beneficiaries and or the people who would inherit assets in regular circumstances are the ones who stand a will contest. Nonetheless, there have been instances in which this is not the case. On the other hand, one of the most common allegations when entering a will contest is lack of mental faculties of the testator, followed by accusations of fraud or abuse of power to enforce a certain influence over the testator’s decisions.

Although the vast majority of will contests are not successful, if the contesting party can demonstrate with clear and convincing evidence that the will hasn’t been properly executed, they can easily annul the validity of the will.

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