Can you contest a legal will?

Close up of magnifying glass of Last Will and TestamentHere’s the scenario.  Your father remarried after your mother passed away.  His new wife has two children from a previous marriage.  It appears she discourages your father from maintaining a relationship with you and your siblings, but is encouraging him to interact with her children.  Something just seems unusual about his behavior.  You feel your father is being manipulated by his new wife.  Your dad has a heart attack and passes away.  His new wife comes forward with a last will and testament that leaves everything to her and her children. What can you do?

You are entitled to contest the will.  There are several reasons a will might be invalid.  First, you have to ascertain whether or not the will was signed in accordance to state law.  In Florida, you must sign your will in the presence of two witnesses.  Did this happen?  Another reason to suspect a will isn’t valid would be if the person who the will is for is not mentally able to sign the document.   This can be extremely difficult to prove.  You would have to prove the person didn’t mentally understand the content and what they were signing. There are people who have minor forms of dementia that are still capable to sign a will.

A will can be declared invalid if someone was coerced into signing it.  Was the person pressured into it?  As people age they can be more susceptible to pressure from others.  The pressure needs to be more than mere nagging.  There must be proof of isolating the person from other family members and friends, threats of harm or other acts of that nature.  Was the person being abused?  And if the will was obtained by fraud it can be contested.  This would have happened by having someone sign papers that they thought were other documents not realizing they were signing a will.

Keep in mind that it is extremely difficult to prove any of these allegations.   Probate courts are very reluctant to change the bequests made in a will.  The deceased person obviously cannot be questioned as to their intent and knowledge.  It is imperative to have all evidence of coercion or mental instability ready to present to the court.  This evidence might include witnesses, e-mails or a physician’s report.

Contesting a will most always creates irreparable damage in a family and can be extremely expensive.

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