Contesting A Decedent’s Will In Hillsborough And Pinellas Counties
A good friend passed away last month leaving a sizable estate and detailed instructions in their will. That friend had four children, ten grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Now her children are arguing about the contents of the will, why the eldest was made personal representative and whether the eldest child exercised undue influence over your friend, forcing her to change will provisions in his favor just before she passed away. You are saddened and disturbed to see your friend’s mental capacity to be called into question and to witness her children arguing over her estate. Is there anything you can do to protect your own estate when the time comes, and how exactly does a loved one contest a will?
Contesting the Will
Someone cannot contest a will just because they are unhappy with what a decedent left them. Limited grounds exist for challenging the will itself. Many challengers argue that the decedent lacked the mental capacity to draft and sign a legal document at the time of the signing. The challenger has the burden of proof in establishing to the probate court that the decedent lacked capacity. To prove testamentary incapacity, the challenger must establish that the testator or recall their possessions and how they wanted each item to be distributed upon their death. Rarely does a probate court reverse what is indicated in a will if a challenge is brought. Usually a burden by the challenger if a last minute change was made on the decedent’s death bed, possibly due to coercion by a third party.
Another common challenge to a will is referred to as failure of form. This failure indicates the document was filed or created improperly. For example, if the signing of the will was not witnessed by two impartial third parties, was not notarized, or appears to be forged, this would speak to a failure of form deficiency.
Preventing Future Estate Disputes
You can prevent dispute and litigation regarding your estate administration now by creating a revocable trust. While a revocable trust can be changed at any point while the creator is living once the decedent passes provisions can no longer be revoked. At that time, the trustee oversees managing the trust and distributing assets according to instructions in the revocable trust. To prevent questioning about the validity of a will, ensure that signing takes place in front of two impartial witnesses and is notarized. Preparing your will with the help of a licensed attorney can ensure the process is completed correctly. Many people forget to destroy old, outdated copies of their last will and testament when they make revisions to the existing copy. When multiple variations of the same document exist, it calls into question the authenticity of the true and correct copy. Take time to destroy or shred old, outdated copies now.
Call our Attorneys at Strategic Counsel Law Group Today
You write your will expecting your provisions and wishes to be upheld. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. How can you guarantee your desires will be respected after your passing? While none of us can predict the future, there are estate planning options available to make your wishes more iron-clad and reduce your estate’s exposure to probate or litigation long after you are gone. Our Tampa wills attorneys at Strategic Counsel Law Group are prepared to assist you throughout each step of your case.