The fact that a will is a legal document does not mean that it cannot be contested. Like many other legal documents, the authenticity, validity or contents of a will can be questioned so long as there is a basis for doing so.
Why contest a will?
People contest a will for different reasons. A person may, without contesting its validity, contest a will because he or she feels aggrieved and did not receive what they thought was entitled to them. Or it could be because they feel that someone else who didn’t deserve to be a beneficiary was included in it. Another reason might be that one feels that a testate was ill-advised or under duress when writing a will. One may even feel that there were omissions or discrepancies that arose from clerical or other technical errors.
Contesting a will can be an opportunity to do things right or, if done maliciously, result in outright trampling on the wishes of a testate. The latter means that the process of challenging a will should be approached with caution without harboring any ill motives.
Tips on How to Contest a Will Successfully
For whatever reason a person is contesting a will, they ought to have the facts to prove clearly that a will should be invalidated. Emotions cannot be used to contest a will. The claimant bears the great burden of proof to demonstrate that a will has violated the requirements it ought to meet as per the law. So, just how can a person contest a will and how can they increase the chances of being successful while at it?
1. Be the right person to claim your entitlement
Not everyone can contest a will for not being provided for. The law only provides for a given class of people related to the testate to present such a claim. These people are:
- A current or a previous spouse
- A child or a person that can be treated as a child
- A person, who at the time of the testator’s demise, was living in the same home or being maintained in that household. Such a person must have lived in that household for not less than two years prior to the testator’s death
If you are among these people and feel that you did not receive what you were entitled to, you are allowed to present a claim. A court of law will then consider your financial status and weigh it against the size of the estate you will be laying claim to.
2. Contest validity
Anybody can contest the validity of a will. To invalidate a will, you will have to prove that the testate did not have a sound mind. You will also have to show that the testate did not approve of the will when it was written. Other requirements for invalidation is if a testator was coerced into writing a will in which case you will need to have witnesses to support your allegations. The execution of a will also has to be done as per the law.
3. Act immediately after the will has been read
A court holds the discretion to allow or deny a claim to be heard. For this reason, it would be prudent to contest a will as soon as possible. If you act promptly, a court is likely to act on it especially if other involved parties would be prejudiced by a delay. Taking immediate action would also make sure that your case will be settled before the assets have been dissipated.
4. Cultivate a good relationship with family
Death is painful. Finding out that a loved one erred or was influenced to deny you a deserved share of the estate could even be more agonizing. However disappointed you might be, strive to keep your cool. It is in your best interest to be in good books with the rest of the family members. Courts like it when disputes can be solved amicably among parties, especially families, without involving the court.
Try out-of-court dispute resolution measures with the other parties. If they do not appear interested, seek some advice from a solicitor so that you won’t be barred from presenting a claim in court at a later time. If need be, secure a caveat that will ensure that part of the estate is not dissipated before you have arrived at a solution.