When can you contest a will?

On Behalf of | Sep 27, 2019 | Estate Administration And Probate |

It’s often surprising how families end up at odds once a beloved matriarch or patriarch passes away. When the details of the will come out, it is not uncommon for relatives to be unhappy about who received what or if they didn’t receive anything from the estate.

Sometimes, those disgruntled family members want to contest the will. However, no one can contest a will solely because they don’t like its terms. To contest a will, you must have legal grounds and proving any of the four legal standards is not simple.

Legal grounds for contesting a will

Here are the grounds for contesting a will in Georgia:

  1. The will was not signed in accordance with Georgia law. Georgia doesn’t accept handwritten wills and an oral will is only valid in strict circumstances. Also, a testator (the person creating the will) must sign a will in the presence of two witnesses for Georgia to recognize it.
  2. The testator lacked the mental capacity to sign the will. In this case, someone contesting the will must prove that the testator signed the will without understanding their assets or the legal ramifications for signing the will. So, if the testator signed the will and had severe dementia or Alzheimer’s, they may not have had the mental capacity to sign the will. However, if they did understand the will’s details, then the will is valid. Often this precedent is difficult to prove, unless a doctor has well-documented the now-deceased individual’s condition.
  3. The testator was unduly influenced. In this case, someone contesting a will has to prove that another party put extreme pressure on the testator to change the will. If someone threatens or verbally abuses the testator, that is not enough of an issue to prove undue influence. The person pressuring the testator must have consulted the attorney handling the will, paid for the will and isolated the testator from their family or friends.
  4. The will is a fraud. In this case, the testator signs the will believing it is something else. For example, perhaps someone presents the will as a deed or power of attorney. However, it is a will. That is an issue of fraud.

Evidence must be present to move forward

As people age, they have the potential to become physically or mentally incapacitated due to old age, illness or more. Unscrupulous people looking to benefit from an elderly person’s weaknesses can lead to fraudulently or illegally changing a will. Any family member who wants to contest a will should consult an estate planning attorney to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to move forward with that motion.