A will contest is a lawsuit that can be filed to contest or challenge a will if you think that the will is written incorrectly and is unequal. A family member or an heir usually contests a will if he or she finds the distribution of wealth and possessions unequal or inappropriate. An unaccepted will can be a result of an external or undue influence over the will-writer, it can stem from the fact that the writer of the will might not be mentally fit to know what he is writing, it can be a fraud, or it can stem from the improper execution of the will.
If a will is created with the tag of a “no contest” clause, the inheritors do not have the right to try it in the court. They can either accept what is given to them or take nothing at all, irrespective of what they think of the will. If a “no contest” will is challenged in the court, one can run the risk of complete disinheritance, for the sheer disrespect to his ancestor and their wishes. His share, then, will probably be distributed among the other beneficiaries.
A member generally contests a will if he is not happy with what is mentioned in the will. He either expects a greater share and thus contests for inequity in distribution or expects his name to be there if the will does not mention him at all as its beneficiary.
Even if you strongly feel upset with the content of the will, it is not enough reason to challenge the will in the court. A valid reason has to be stated for the law suit to proceed. If the heir can prove the existence of an undue influence over the will-maker, a forgery, fraud, coercion, mental incapacity of the will-maker or a mistake in the execution of the will, only then will the law suit be valid and care to proceed. The law, hardly, takes emotions into account.
If a will contest is successful, it is possible that a part or whole of it is considered void and is thus not enforced. If the entire will is voided, the assets are distributed equally among the heirs without favoring anyone as might or might not be the case in the will. If there is a prior will then it can be reinstated in case of part or whole of the will being voided.
However, a family can be saved from all the will and inheritance disputes if the will is drafted and executed properly in the first place. A person who has accumulated great fortune can avoid the occurrence of any filial fight by ensuring equal and appropriate distribution of his assets among the beneficiaries and not disinheriting or favoring one person of the family.
Each state has its own laws regarding specifications. There is a law that governs how a Last Will and Testament should be signed in different states. Therefore, one should be aware of these laws and abide by them to avoid any future conflicts within the heirs and for the will to be claimed void.
If after going through the legalities involved in a will contest, you absolutely think that you are wronged and wish to challenge the will laid down by a loved one, you should consider the expense you will beat to proceed with the law suit. Only if you think you can successfully and lawfully prove that the will was written when the person was incompetent because of a disease or a condition, or a person influenced the writer for his own benefit, or he was forced or tricked into signing the will or any such strong evidence, only then can a will contest lawyer help you file a law suit and fight for your rights and assets.
Paul is a admitted to practice both in New York and Florida, and has many clients with residences in both states. He is also admitted to practice in the United States Tax Court as well as the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York. He is a member of the New York State Bar Association, Westchester County Bar Association and Florida Bar Association. He is an active member of the Estate Planning Counsel and has also served on the Executive Board for the Tax Committee and the Trusts and Estates Committee.
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