Probate is the legal process through which a person’s estate is settled and distributed. During probate, the court oversees the payment of debts and taxes, identifies the rightful heirs and helps ensure the transfer of assets according to the terms of a will or employs intestate laws in the event that the deceased passed away without a will in place.
What if someone’s will just “doesn’t feel right”? Can you contest it? Contesting a will is the legal process that allows individuals to challenge the validity or terms of a will. It is important to understand the circumstances under which you can contest a will and the steps involved in doing so, as this process is rarely straightforward.
Lack of testamentary capacity
Contesting a will requires valid grounds, and Massachusetts law recognizes certain circumstances in which a will may be challenged. To create a valid will, the testator (the person making the will) must have the mental capacity to understand the nature and consequences of their actions. Lack of testamentary capacity is a common ground for contesting a will. If it can be shown that the testator did not have the mental capacity to comprehend the implications of their will at the time of its creation, the will may be deemed invalid.
Additionally, if it can be demonstrated that another person unduly influenced the testator at the time of the will’s creation, the court may invalidate it. Undue influence occurs when someone exerts pressure or manipulates the testator into creating a will that reflects their wishes instead of the testator’s true intentions.
Fraud, forgery or the existence of multiple wills
If there is evidence of fraud or forgery in the creation or execution of a will, it can be contested. Fraud involves intentional misrepresentation or deceit, while forgery refers to falsifying the testator’s signature or adding provisions without their knowledge or consent. A will can be contested if a subsequent will or codicil (an amendment to a will) revokes or supersedes the previous will. It is essential to establish the existence of a valid and updated will that renders the contested will null and void.
Contesting a will is a complex legal process that requires a solid understanding of the grounds for contesting and the steps involved. It is crucial to consult with a knowledgeable professional to help ensure your interests are protected throughout the proceedings if you choose to move forward with this approach.