What is a Contested Will?
A will contest is a formal challenge in court to the validity of a will. The challenge to the will may be based on a claim that the will was not validly executed. A will that is not properly signed by the testator (a forgery) or not properly witnessed may be invalid. The will contest may also be based upon the testator’s lack of legal capacity to execute a will. This would require proof that:
- a testator was not competent to make a will
- the testator was unduly influenced by someone else or a portion or all of the will is ambiguous or not capable of interpretation
Steps that can be taken to Avoid a Will Contest?
A will that is least likely to be challenged is one that is carefully drawn and prepared:
- a good amount of time prior to death
- while you are healthy in body and mind
- leaving your estate to the natural objects of your bounty
Wills more likely to be challenged are ones prepared:
- in the final stages of a fatal illness
- containing unusual dispositions of an individual’s estate (such as everything to a caretaker)
If mind-altering medication is being administered to a terminally ill patient, it may improve the chances of a successful challenge based on lack of mental capacity or undue influence. In some situations, to prevent a challenge in these situations, it may be advisable to videotape the will signing or obtain a doctor’s opinion of the mental capacity of the testator.