What is the Process of Contesting a Will, a Deed or a Trust in Florida?
Each year, Florida courts process a large number of probate claims — over 122,000 cases to be more specific. There are also a myriad of trusts and deeds signed. The bulk of these matters include documents that provide the court with some guidelines on how the deceased individual wanted their property and assets to be distributed.
However, not all of these cases proceed peacefully through the applicable Florida court. In fact, it’s quite common for a family member or other interested party to come forward and make a claim that the documents are not accurate. This is what’s known as contesting or challenging a will, deed or trust. In some cases, the person making the claim is just a scorned or greedy family member who has no grounds to make the claim. However, there are other times where allegations of undue influence or the existence of another document will come to light.
If you think you have grounds to contest a will, a deed or a trust, it’s important to speak with a West Palm Beach probate and real estate attorney who can advise you on what your legal rights are. Contesting a testamentary document or deed is not an easy process and you shouldn’t attempt to proceed without an attorney on your side.
Grounds for Challenging a Florida Will, Deed or Trust
There are several different grounds that would give rise to an attorney moving forward with challenging the document. These can include:
Lack of Capacity: This is when someone is claiming the decedent did not have mental capacity at the time the document was made, he or she did not understand how the assets were being divided. The court can declare a document to be void if you can prove lack of capacity. This can be done through medical records that show a prior diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or psychosis. You may have to call a witness who can testify whether or not the decedent was irrational around the time the document was executed.
Fraud: Fraud is when a document’s beneficiary causes the decedent to change the document based on erroneous or misrepresented information. It could be something as simple as a child who tells a painful lie about a sibling, so the parent writes the person out.
Lack of Proper Formalities: This is when you challenge the will, deed or trust for not having the right number of witnesses or the document was not signed properly or the notorization is defective.
Insane Delusion: An insane delusion is when the decedent believes something that is not true, despite all evidence pointing to the contrary. One example would be the belief that a family member abandoned the person, despite the fact that he or she visits three to four times a week.
Undue Influence: Undue influence is when someone coerces or forces the decedent to change a document. This sometimes happens with caretakers or healthcare professionals. Look for people who recently befriended the decedent in the last six months.
Contact a Florida Probate Attorney
You only have a short window to challenge the will — typically only 90 days after the notice of administration has been mailed. The time periods to challenge a will, deed or trust can vary depending on the facts and time of discovery. If you need assistance with contesting a will, deed or trust, it’s important to speak with a West Palm Beach probate and real estate attorney right away. Contact the Law Offices of Larry E. Bray, P.A. at 561-571-8970 to schedule a consultation.