How to Challenge a Will in Florida
How do you challenge a will in Florida? This is probably the most common question that a Florida probate lawyer receives from non-clients or prospective new clients. A Florida probate attorney can challenge or contest a will in a Florida probate proceeding, provided certain grounds exist.
It’s important to point out that challenging a will is not just for someone who believes they were wrongfully cut out of the estate or improperly disinherited. There may be other reasons for someone to object to the will as well.
Here is a look at some of the reasons people elect to challenge a will in Florida:
Lack of Capacity
Florida law requires that a testator have mental capacity in order to make a will and understand the total picture of his or her assets and to whom they plan on distributing the assets. You can challenge a will and have it declared void if lack of capacity can be proven. This can often be achieved through a medical diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, dementia, or even psychosis.
Lack of Proper Formalities
Lack of proper formalities is when the will was not properly drafted, signed, or witnessed as required by applicable laws. Proper execution of a will typically means it is signed by the testator and witnessed by two people, who also sign the will.
Estate fraud is when a will’s beneficiary gets the testator to make changes to a will by misrepresenting a set of facts. One example would be the vindictive child who tells lies about their sibling to get them removed from the will. If you can prove the will has been prepared or changed due to fraud, the probate court will set it aside.
Undue influence involves coercion or compelling the testator to execute a will. The use of improper pressure is typically done by a family member, trusted advisor, friend, or even healthcare employee.
In many cases, the use of undue influence is seen in cases where a long-established estate plan was in place that had the majority of the estate being passed directly to descendants or other close relatives. The undue influencer is often someone new in the testator’s life, usually when the testator has become ill or has a decline in their mental state. Unfortunately, some health care workers threaten to withhold medical care unless the testator changes their will and leaves the bulk of the estate to the health care worker.
Timeframe for Challenging a Will in Florida
The timeframe for challenging a will in Florida is relatively short. You typically only have 90 days after the notice of administration has been sent to the personal representative. In certain situations, the timeframe may be even less.
Because the window to challenge a will is short and the process is complex, it’s important to retain a knowledgeable Florida probate attorney who can assist you with the process. At the Law Offices of Larry E. Bray, P.A., we have been helping clients with estate planning and probate needs for over 30 years. Contact our West Palm Beach office at 561-571-8970 to schedule a consultation.