What to Know about Contesting a Will in Florida
Each month, hundreds, if not thousands, of new probate cases are opened all across Florida. Most of these cases involve someone who passed away with a last will and testament. The remainder are handled as intestate cases, following the Florida laws of succession.
Probate is to make sure the testator’s wishes are followed. However, sometimes there are questions or concerns about the information in the will and the beneficiaries the testator included. When a dispute arises about the will, this is when you need to contact a West Palm Beach probate attorney.
Grounds for Contesting a Will
Most people think the only person who challenges a will is a family member who is bitter and feels they were wrongfully cut out of their inheritance share. However, there are a number of reasons that someone may opt to challenge a will. Some of the most common ones are:
- Will was Not Properly Executed: Florida law requires that a will be witnessed by two people. Failure to complete the witness requirement could render the will invalid.
- Undue Influence: Undue influence involves someone who used force, coercion, duress, or other improper means to get someone to execute their will. In most cases, it’s a family member, friend, trusted advisor, a caretaker, or even a health care worker. Undue influence is typically seen in cases where an estate plan was established long ago and suddenly there was a major change that left everything to someone the testator barely knew.
- Possible Fraud: If a beneficiary told the testator a lie in order to get another beneficiary removed from the will, it can be fraud. If you can prove that the changes to the will were based on fraud, the court will set it aside.
- Lack of Capacity: In order to make a legally binding will, the testator must have the mental capacity. This means they needed to understand the total picture of their assets and what the choices they make mean. If someone has early-onset Alzheimer’s or dementia, they may not completely understand the decisions they made or the beneficiaries they included.
What is the Procedure for Contesting a Will?
When you contest a will, you may, or may not be filing a lawsuit or separate case action. Sometimes, your attorney will file an adversary proceeding that is part of the probate case. Here is where you can ask to have a portion of the will or the whole thing deemed invalid. If you are alleging fraud, duress, or undue influence, the court may revoke the entire will.
How Much Time Do You Have to Contest a Will?
The State of Florida requires you to contest a Will before the probate process is complete, provided that the Will has been submitted to the court. If the Will has been submitted, and if you’ve received notification, you have 3 months from the time of notification to contest it. If you did not receive notification, you may contest after the 3 month period, as long as the probate process is still ongoing. If the Will has not been submitted to the court, you may challenge the Will at any time without restriction. You need to contact a Boca Raton probate attorney right away. If you miss the deadline, you have most likely lost the right to contest the will.
Contact Us for All Your Estate Planning Needs
If you need to challenge a will in Florida, contact the Law Offices of Larry E. Bray, P.A. today to schedule an initial consultation. Be sure to contact us as soon as possible so we can get a proceeding filed right away, preserving your right to contest the will.