It can be traumatic when the loss of a loved one is coupled with shock and surprise over a will that descends the contents of an estate in a way that appears inconsistent with the intentions of the deceased testator. If this scenario has taken the unfortunate turn from hypothetical to real in the wake of the loss of your parent, spouse, child, or other close relatives, you may have the option to formally contest the validity of the will in question. In doing so, work closely with an experienced estate litigation attorney.
A Will Must Comply with Applicable State Laws to be Valid
Wills and trusts are serious business. As such, a will must comply with all formalities imposed by state law in order to be regarded as valid. For example, the will must be signed by the person whose estate it concerns (the “testator”). In addition, the testator’s signing of the will occur in the presence and hearing of two valid witnesses. In most cases, in order to be a valid witness of a will, one must not be a beneficiary of the will.
The Drafting and Execution of a Will Must Be Free from Undue Influence and Fraud
In addition to signature and witness requirements imposed by estate laws, the drafting and signing of a will must be free from undue influence and fraud. Undue influence, a legal term of art, exists when a testator is subjected to extreme pressure or severe duress – to an extent in which free will is suppressed – in the signing of a will. When mental or physical capacity diminishes with age, a testator is particularly vulnerable to undue influence exerted by individuals lacking scruples.
Testamentary Capacity Is Necessary for a Will to Be Valid
Of equal importance to compliance with will formalities and the presence of true volition is testamentary capacity. Capacity, which concerns cognition – the being of sound mind at the signing of the will – is necessary for a will to be valid. A testator possessing capacity understands the nature and value of the contents of his or her estate, the individuals or institutions who will inherit the contents via the execution of will, and the legal effect of the signing of the will. Evidence and witness testimony may be used to establish the absence of capacity.
Contact an Estate Planning Lawyer Today
To contest a will on the grounds of capacity, undue influence, or non-compliance with relevant formalities, you need to have a seasoned estate litigation attorney advocating for you. Contact a will contest law firm in Philadelphia, PA to set up a free and confidential consultation.
Thanks to Klenk Law for their insight into estate planning and contesting a will.