Consequences of Contesting a Will in Bad Faith
When a will is entered into probate, all of the beneficiaries are notified. Given the contents of the will, beneficiaries may have some concerns – they may have had them prior to their loved one’s death. Does the will represent what they know the decedent wanted? Or was it suddenly changed? Did the decedent decide to alter their final wishes based on another person’s influence, misinformation, or false promises? If there is any evidence to suggest undue influence or fraud led to the creation or revision of a will, then a beneficiary should speak with an attorney about contesting the will.
However, probate matters are often emotional times. Many family members may disagree about what the decedent wanted – or what they want from the estate. Sometimes siblings, parents and children, cousins, and other relatives plain do not like each other. Anger, resentment, and dislike can lead to someone wanting to challenge the will out of spite. However, bringing a claim with little support would be in bad faith and can lead to consequences such as paying the other party’s attorneys’ fees.
What is a Bad Faith Will Contest?
Many will contests are not egregiously false. However, that does not mean they are entirely in good faith. A court typically considers a challenge of a will in bad faith if it is not firmly rooted in fact or the law. If a beneficiary claimed the will was changed based on another individual’s undue influence, there must be some reasonable evidence supporting this claim, even if the evidence does not rise to the level of proving undue influence in court. A claim does not have to succeed in probate court to be considered in good faith.
Attorneys’ Fees After Losing a Will Contest
If you challenge a decedent’s will and you lose, the winning party can then ask for you to pay all or some of their attorneys’ fees regarding the matter. This is in defiance of the ordinary rule in which each party pays their own fees. However, Florida explicitly allows it when there is evidence of bad faith. If the court finds evidence that your contesting the will was in bad faith, whether it was not based on law or fact, then it may order you to pay all or some of the winning side’s attorneys’ fees.
How much you must pay in attorneys’ fees depends on the situation. The winning side will ask for a certain amount, and then the court will assess what is reasonable based on the facts of the situation.
Do You Want to Challenge a Will?
If you recently lost a loved one and believe their will is not valid, the best thing for you to do is contact an experienced probate attorney at the Law Offices of Larry E. Bray, P.A. Our team has decades of experience with probate matters and can carefully review your situation to determine if you have a good faith challenge to a will.