Can You Contest a Florida Will if You Believe It’s Fraudulent?
Losing a loved one can be more frustrating when there are disputes and disagreements about their final wishes. Conflicts during probate administration are not uncommon, but the bitter legal disputes can take a toll on relationships and require years to resolve. However, if an interested party has a genuine belief that the will is fraudulent, it should be investigated. To learn more about contesting a potentially fraudulent will in Florida, contact the knowledgeable West Palm Beach probate attorneys at the Law Offices of Larry E. Bray, P.A. today.
What Are the Most Common Types of Fraud in a Will?
Estate planning fraud can take multiple forms. When it comes to contesting a fraudulent will, the petitioner is alleging that one or more beneficiaries engaged in deceitful practices to get the deceased to change their will. The most common types of fraud related to wills include:
- Fraud in the Will’s Execution: With fraud in the execution, the decedent may not fully realize what they are signing and agreeing to. When the testator believes they are signing a will that reflects their wishes, but they are signing a completely different document, it’s fraud in the will’s execution.
- Fraud Caused by Duress: When a beneficiary exerts undue influence over the testator, they are trying to get them to alter the will in favor of the beneficiary. The duress could be as overt as a physical or verbal threat. However, in most cases, the duress is more subtle. Or, it can happen when a family member or caregiver assumes control over the testator’s financial and legal decisions and documents.
- Fraud in the Inducement: With this type of fraud, the testator would be compelled to alter or revoke their will because of false information someone provided them. One typical example is a sibling trying to turn another sibling against each other. Based on this erroneous information, the testator may change their will. If the sibling were lying and acting out of greed, they would be guilty of fraud in the inducement.
What Grounds Can You Contest a Will On?
Interested parties can contest a will based on several grounds besides fraud or undue influence. These grounds include:
- Age—Wills must be drafted and completed by an adult (18 and older), unless they served in the military or married.
- Mental capacity—If there are concerns about the testator’s mental capacity, you can challenge that they were not mentally capable of agreeing to the will at the time.
- Lack of witnesses—Wills must be signed in the presence of witnesses. Witnesses cannot be anyone who will stand to inherit anything in the will either.
If you suspect fraud or want to pursue another valid challenge to the testator’s will, you should gather all the evidence you have. Evidence will vary based on the circumstances and what grounds you are contesting the will under. For example, you may have medical records showing the testator was in poor health, and in the hospital at the time they allegedly drafted the will.
Contact a Florida Probate Attorney
If you have questions on contesting a will in Florida, contact the Law Offices of Larry E. Bray, P.A. today to schedule an initial consultation.