5 Reasons Why Wills Are Contested

Wills can be contested for several reasons. These can include lack of testamentary capacity, undue influence, or fraudulent calumny. In addition to these reasons, some other factors that can cause a will to be contested. The purpose of this article is to provide an overview of some of the most common reasons wills are challenged in the State of Washington.

Lack of testamentary capacity

One reason why wills are contested is that the testator lacked the mental capacity to make a will. To be legally incompetent, the testator must be unable to understand the will, its terms, and how it will be executed. A person only needs to have sufficient mental capacity to write a will at the time they wrote it. A decrease in mental acuity as a person ages is not a valid reason to contest someone’s will.  However, some people with mental conditions can make a valid will and proof of the contrary requires their doctor’s expert opinion and not simply the unsubstantiated opinion of family members.

The court must first determine whether the testator had the mental capacity to create a will at the time it was written.  Dementia and “insane delusions” can both cause the testator to lack mental competence. When this happens, beneficiaries can contest the will. If the testator was incapable of making the will, the court will often rule in favor of the challenger.

Fraudulent calumny

Fraudulent calumny is one way that people can invalidate a will. It is the process of poisoning the mind of the testator against a beneficiary by uttering false statements about their character. The statement must not only be untrue, but also must be made with the intent of misrepresenting the facts. If the beneficiary is capable of proving this, it can be enough to invalidate a will.

The burden of proof for a fraudulent calumny claim is much higher when it comes to severe disputes, so it is recommended that people seek legal advice if they suspect the person involved might be influencing a will. However, it is important to note that even in the presence of strong evidence, it is hard to prove fraudulent calumny.

Undue influence

The legal doctrine of undue influence in will contests is very similar to the doctrine of fraud. Undue influence occurs when someone improperly takes advantage of another, usually for their own benefit. It can also occur when a person is forced to make decisions against their own wishes. In order to successfully challenge a will, a person must show that the person in question actually exerted undue influence over the testator.

There are several ways to prove that an individual is under the influence of another, including obtaining information on the owner’s assets or securing an inheritance from the testator. Further, if the alleged undue influence is based on physical abuse, the abuser may be prosecuted criminally.

Lack of knowledge

A will can be contested if the person making it has no knowledge of the contents or does not approve of them. These circumstances can range from lack of mental capacity to not being proficient in English. In any case, a will that is made without knowledge or approval is invalid. The testator’s actions can also be questioned, if they were influenced or coerced into signing a will by someone they knew.

Other grounds for contesting a will include fraud or forgery. These cases often stem from people who want to gain a stake in the estate and are manipulating the will-maker. These people may be relatives, close friends, or even strangers. This type of manipulation can also involve physical violence, intimidation, trickery, or isolation of the person.

Lack of Approval

Despite being a common reason for will contestation, lack of approval does not necessarily mean that a will is invalid. In some instances, it can be simply that the testator did not know what he was signing. This can be particularly difficult for elderly people and other vulnerable individuals who may not be able to understand the terms of their will. In such situations, the will may be contested.

Other reasons for contesting a will include suspicious circumstances surrounding its making. For example, the testator may not have had adequate mental capacity or he or she did not take the time to write a will in the first place. Likewise, the testator may have involved other family members in the process of making the will, such as a child or cohabitee. In addition, the will may have been written with a mistake and not been picked up during the process.

To avoid having your will contested for these or other reasons contact the legal experts at orbitwills.com for help.

Published 10/26/2022.