Your loved one passes away and you get a copy of the will. Right away, you can tell that something isn’t right. You don’t think this will should stand. You want to contest it and fight for your rights as an heir.
But can you do so? Do you actually have the proper legal grounds to go to court? Or do you just have to abide by the will, even when you do not think that it accurately portrays your loved one’s wishes? This is already an emotional time for you and your family, and now this legal confusion makes it that much more difficult to move forward.
You may be able to challenge the will. Here are a few potential reasons why:
1. Undue influence impacted your loved one’s decisions
In other words, their decisions were not really their own. The will does not reflect what they wanted, only what someone else influenced them to write down.
For example, perhaps you have an older copy of the will in which you received far more of the estate. Right before their passing, your parent changed the will to give more of the estate to a step-sibling, whom you never got along with but who lived closer to your parent. You think that they convinced them to make the change by manipulating them in the fragile time near the end of their life.
2. Your loved one drafted the will without testamentary capacity
This is often a problem for people with dementia and other mental disorders. They may no longer have the mental capacity to understand what the will means, what assets they control or even what papers they are signing.
This could be related to the manipulation discussed above. Perhaps your step-sibling waited until your parent no longer understood the legal process and then convinced them to move assets out of your name. They never wanted to do this and didn’t even understand that they did.
3. Your loved one only signed through fraud
The extreme end of the example noted above is when someone uses fraud to get an elderly person to take an action they don’t know they’re taking. They can do this by lying directly.
For instance, maybe your step-sibling altered the will and then brought it to your parent. They told them it was a simple medical form they needed to sign for the hospital. They did it, trusting that person. However, they got tricked into signing an altered will that they’d never seen.
As you can see, you may have a case. Make sure you understand what legal steps you can take to defend yourself and your loved one’s real wishes .