What Are Your Chances Of Winning A Challenge To A Will?
Let’s say that someone that you love passes away. To your shock you are left out of the will or other estate documents. Will you win your case? What are your chances of winning a will contest?
Case by Case Basis
Like any case, a will contest is contested, adversarial litigation, and your chances of winning or losing very much depend on the facts of your particular case. There are, however, some factors to look at when determining whether you have a chance at winning, and overturning the will.
Who Drafted the Estate Documents?
One thing to ask is whether the will or other estate document that you are looking to challenge, was drafted by an attorney. Yes, you can still challenge a will that was drafted by a lawyer, but lawyer-drafted estate documents tend to be harder to overturn than those that were drafted without an attorney.
Another thing to ask is what was the mental state or the health of the person who made the will (or any amendment to the will), at the time the will was created or altered?
Sadly, many people do alter their will in times when they are older, ill, or not mentally competent to do so. Even if someone did, for example, have dementia, or some other disease, at the time the will was drafted or altered, you still would have to prove their condition, and that they didn’t meaningfully understand what they were doing with their estate documents.
You (through your will contest attorney) may need to get the deceased’s medical records, or talk to those close to the deceased, to see what they were like, mentally and physically, at the time the will was made or amended. Your chances of winning your case could go up, based on what is in those records.
Did anybody assist the deceased in making or altering the will? Your chances of winning go up, if someone of trust (like, say, an advisor, an accountant, a healthcare worker or a relative) helped the deceased make or alter their estate document, and then that exact person benefited from the estate documents or the changes to them (for example, a financial advisor for the deceased suddenly ends up receiving multiple bank accounts from the deceased).
You may be able to argue that the deceased was coerced, or under undue influence, and thus, was unfairly influenced by the person who benefitted from the will.
Burdens and Settlement
Remember that in a will contest, it is up to you, as the party challenging the validity of the will, to prove that the estate documents are invalid, or that there was coercion or duress involved.
In many cases, if your challenge has validity the administrator of the estate may want to mediate your case to see if some reasonable settlement can be reached, in order to minimize the legal expenses to the estate.
Do you feel that you were unfairly left out of a will, or estate documents? We can help you see if you have a valid challenge to the will. The Law Offices of Larry E. Bray is ready to help. Contact West Palm Beach estate planning lawyer Larry E. Bray today to schedule a consultation.