Disagreements over the last will and testament of a deceased loved one are commonplace. A spouse, child, or anyone else who feels that they have been wronged often wants to contest the will and correct the perceived wrong that has been done. You cannot simply contest the will because you feel that you should have received something that you didn't get – you have to contest based on the grounds that the will as signed or written was invalid at the time the deceased loved one (referred to as the testator) signed the will. Here are three reasons a probate court will accept to invalidate the will.
Not Signed In Accordance With the Law
Every state has laws that regulate how the will should be signed by the testator, and if those rules are not followed, a person can legitimately contest the will. For example, in New York, a will must be signed by the testator in the presence of two disinterested witnesses (meaning they are not beneficiaries to the will) who are knowingly and willingly watching the testator sign his will.
If you find that a witness signing the will wasn't actually present with the testator as he signed his will, that would be cause for the probate court to rule the will invalid.
Lacked Mental Capacity
Another way to get a will ruled invalid is to show that the testator lacked the mental capacity to understand what he is signing. This can be very difficult to prove since a person can have limited metal capacity in some states and still be authorized to sign his own will.
You would need to provide medical evidence that the testator was lacking sufficient mental capacity to understand what he was signing. If the testator wasn't being treated for a severe mental ailment that diminished his mental capacity before he died, you probably won't be able to show enough evidence to have the probate court rule the will invalid.
If you can prove that the testator was unduly influenced by someone who is also a beneficiary of the will, you have cause to have the will invalidated. Undue influence does not mean a beneficiary nagged or threatened the testator about what she wants in the will. Undue influence is when the testator has lost his free will to make decisions on his own, and you can prove a beneficiary forced him to add or change a will that he would not have otherwise have done on his own.
For more information, contact Davis & Mathis or a similar firm.