It is important to know when to challenge a will and in what circumstances a will can be challenged. Because estate planning is such an important process to ensure the wishes of the estate planner are fulfilled, it is helpful for family members and beneficiaries to understand the will contest process when a will contest becomes necessary.
It is useful to keep in mind that the process of contesting a will can be challenging. Nearly all wills pass through the probate process uneventfully. A will records the wishes of the estate planner which is why the court will want to ensure those wishes are being fulfilled. Any party that has an interest in the will can challenge the will. Wills are most commonly and successfully challenged by spouses. If the will challenge is successful, the entire will can be voided or just a part of the will may be voided.
A will contest may be based on different grounds, including if the estate planner lacked testamentary capacity to execute the will or if some sort of duress or undue influence was involved in the will-making process. To have testamentary capacity the estate planner must be 18 years old or older and meet several other requirements including that they understand the value and extent of their property. Additionally, if witness and signing requirements in the state where the will is being executed are not met, it may also be grounds to contest the will. Other reasons to challenge a will can include fraud.
Understanding when a will can be challenged can be helpful to families during a difficult period of time as they struggle with the loss of a loved one and want to ensure that the estate planner's wishes are fulfilled. The legal process serves as a resource to guide families through the process and to resolve their concerns.