What do you do if you have been wrongfully excluded from inheriting what should have been given to you when someone dies? Depending on the circumstances, you may be entitled to bring a lawsuit called a will contest. If a will doesn't fulfill certain legal requirements, you can challenge the will in probate court. Contesting a will is very unusual, but at Phillips Law Firm, Inc., we have successfully handled will contests for persons wrongfully excluded from a will, and we have successfully defended will contests from those persons that were excluded for good cause. There are several grounds on which someone can bring a will contest. Examples include:
Age - The person who made the will must have been 18 years of age or older, or living in a state that permits younger persons to make a will.
Mental State – A person must be mentally capable of making a will at the time the will was signed.
Fraud or Undue Influence - A will can also be declared invalid if the will is a fraud, forgery, or if someone forced the person to sign the will by "undue influence."
Contents of the Will – If a will does not contain certain legally required information, it can be declared invalid. Beware of the “online” forms that do not take into account the legal requirements of your state laws.
Witnesses – A will must be dated and signed in the presence of witnesses. In most states, the witnesses cannot be people who are named to inherit property in the will. If a witness signs the will, and should inherit according to the will, this may void the gift to that witness, but not the rest of the will.
Invalid Wills – Some states allow handwritten, unwitnessed wills, and others do not. The probate court must be satisfied that the document is actually in the deceased person's handwriting and was intended to serve as a will.
If you have reason to believe that you were wrongfully excluded from a loved one’s will, or if somebody is challenging a will that would affect your rights, we can help you.