When the contents of a loved one’s will disappoint the surviving heirs, it is probably too late to ask the loved one for clarification. This is why many estate planning advisors recommend that those preparing their wills share their decisions before it is too late. Otherwise, the heirs may end up spending precious time and money disputing the will in court. This can also leave family members embittered and estranged from each other.
However, just because you are left out of someone’s will or receive a smaller portion of an estate than you were expecting does not mean you have cause to contest the will in probate court. This would result in disappointed heirs overrunning the court system. Instead, the law limits the reasons for disputing a will and restricts those who have the right to file a legal claim.
Do you have cause to dispute a will?
If you are a legal heir, such as a spouse, child or sibling of the deceased, you may have the right to contest the contents of a will. However, you should expect this to be a difficult and expensive process, and you may also anticipate that your fellow heirs may not appreciate your efforts. Nevertheless, if a fortune is at stake, it might be worth it to undertake the process of proving your grounds for contesting the will. You must present evidence of one of the following:
- The deceased did not have the mental capacity to understand that he or she was executing a will or the ramifications of those actions. Often, this threshold is not very high.
- Someone took advantage of the deceased’s vulnerability to pressure him or her into changing the contents of the will or signing a will that favored the influencer. An example of this is a caretaker who isolates your loved one from the rest of the family.
- The will was a fraud that the deceased signed after someone tricked him or her. However, it may be difficult proving that the deceased did not understand what he or she was signing.
- Your loved one did not comply with Texas laws when executing the will, such as having appropriate signatures and witnesses.
Understanding each of these grounds is critical before taking steps toward litigation. It is often challenging to obtain proof that will support your claim. This is why many in your situation discuss their concerns with a skilled and experienced probate attorney who has the resources to investigate your claim and take the next appropriate steps.