Challenging a will is an emotionally draining, time-consuming and expensive experience. Ultimately, though, it may prove unsuccessful. For someone to challenge a will, he or she must be an “interested party” – a person who has a financial stake in the state.
Here are some essential reasons for people to challenge a will:
- Undue influence: In this scenario, your vulnerable father likely was isolated from your family and close friends by your stepmother – the primary beneficiary in the will. In these situations, a spouse, sibling, an adult child or trusted friend coerced or threatened a vulnerable person into changing the will. This argument can invalidate the document.
- The mental capacity of the creator of the will: Was your father in a questionable medical state when he created or revised the will? This may be difficult to prove. However, tracking down his medical records from during that time just may be all the corroborating support you need.
- Fraud involved: Perhaps trickery was behind your father signing these documents related to his will. Such deviousness likely led him to sign away his estate, and he did not know it.
- Improper execution: A will must follow legal formalities. For example, it must be signed by the will’s creator and witnesses. Often, one comes across do-it-yourself wills that just do not cut it.
- Forgery: Some may remember Melvin Dummar, the Utah man named as a beneficiary in the dubious 1976 will of billionaire recluse Howard Hughes. The document was a forgery.
The majority of wills heard in court wind up with relatively smooth outcomes. However, if you choose to contest a will, expect a long, drawn-out legal battle. Make sure you understand what you are getting into and have the supporting evidence you need.