Your father has died, his will has been read, and most everyone in the family is not satisfied with the results. What do you do? Challenging your father’s will is an option, but it can prove costly and often be unsuccessful.
Still you want to move forward with this decision. You believe there are unanswered questions, and your family questions the validity of the will. When contesting a will, there are a few reasons in which you can do so.
Reasons to challenge a will
- The will must be signed according to state laws. In Massachusetts, the testator – the person who wrote the will – must sign the will in the presence of at least two adult witnesses, who also must sign the will. Failing to sign a will in according to state law is usually the most common way the document is declared invalid.
- The person writing the will must be competent, understand the will, and have “testamentary capacity.” If the person has dementia, senility or lacked the mental capacity to oversee the will, the document may be challenged.
- The testator was “unduly influenced” into agreeing and signing a will. Here’s a case that exemplifies this. In Michigan, an attorney stands to inherit millions from a client, but the client’s family has challenged the will saying he had been manipulated. Although an appeals court ruled that the attorney did not “unduly influence” the client, the case is now in the state’s supreme court.
- The will was created through fraud and forgery. The testator may have been manipulated and tricked into signing it. One of the more famous fraudulent wills was the one from billionaire Howard Hughes that bequeathed millions to a Nevada gas station employee who claimed he saved Hughes' life.
An estimated 99 percent of will go through court without any problems. This numbers shows just how difficult it can be to challenge a will.