The probate process involves assessments of the deceased's will to determine its validity. The probate court determines the proper distribution of the assets after death and a comprehensive valuation of the deceased's estate. When someone contests a will, the probate court also evaluates those challenges and rules on the complaint. Here are a few things to know about contested wills.
What are some of the most common reasons for disputing wills?
There are a few common reasons why a family member might contest a will. If there are any reasons to suspect undue influence by someone else in contact with the deceased, such as a caregiver or another family member, that is reasonable grounds for contesting the will.
Sometimes, a will is contested because of a belief that it is fraudulent or forged. Any evidence that the signature on the will in question is not that of the deceased is cause to contest it. If more than one will exists, the deceased was lacking testamentary capacity at the time of signing, or the will is too vague to follow reliably, you might contest it and let the probate court decide.
How do you dispute a will?
When you come to the determination that there's reason to contest a will, you need to approach the process properly. Only certain people are eligible to file a will contest. In most states, those people include the deceased's spouse, parent, and child. The dispute is filed in the probate court in your area as part of the estate's probate process. The judge will consider the dispute as part of the estate assessment.
What are the means for settling a will dispute?
There are a few options for settling a dispute about a will. You have the option to take it to mediation, but you might need to consider the need for litigation. If you have to litigate a will dispute, the burden of proof is on you as the challenger to establish the grounds for your claim.
How can you avoid will disputes?
If you want to reduce the risk of anyone in your family disputing your will, careful consideration during the will drafting process is the first step. Once your will is complete, talk with your loved ones about what it contains. The more you document and explain to your family, the more they will understand your wishes. This reduces the risk that anyone might contest your will or question its validity in any way.
Contact a local probate lawyer to learn more.