If you’ve been wrongfully removed from a loved one’s will or believe someone has unfairly influenced how a will was created, you may want to challenge its validity in court. Challenging, or “contesting,” a will is a complex process that can take an emotional toll on family members who have just lost a loved one. That’s why it’s important to have an experienced probate attorney on your side to help you ensure the appropriate legal action is taken. Anyone with a vested interest in the outcome of someone’s will can challenge its validity, even if they aren’t named as a beneficiary. Here are the most common reasons to challenge a will in Florida:
Undue influence is the intentional manipulation of the terms of a will to greatly benefit one person. Undue influence is one of the most common reasons to challenge a will. It happens when someone tries to coerce or threaten the testator (the person who created the will) to make a will that benefits a specific person. For instance, a family member who’s the primary caretaker of an elderly relative may convince your relative to leave everything in their will to them. To prove undue influence, you’ll need to provide evidence that someone persuaded the testator to create the will in a particular way.
For a will to be valid, it must follow the guidelines stated in Florida Statute 732.502. The testator must be over 18 and legally able to create a will. The will must be in writing. It also must be signed at the bottom of the document by the testator and two witnesses. It’s preferable that the two witnesses are not beneficiaries in the will.
A testator must be of sound mind to create a valid will. The testator must have a complete understanding of what they’re doing at the time of signing the document. If the testator has a persistent condition (such as late-stage dementia) that prevents them from fully acknowledging the gravity of the document they’re creating, the will would be invalid. To prove this in court, you may have to provide diagnosis information and testimonies from medical professionals that can authenticate the testator’s condition.
If you feel you have been wrongfully removed from a loved one’s will, you may be able to challenge your removal. To do this, you’ll need to prove that the testator planned to include you in the will but didn’t, either by mistake or coercion. You will need to provide evidence showing your loved one planned to list you as a beneficiary. This could include prior drafts of the will with you listed as a beneficiary or a written statement from the testator before they died about their intention to include you.
A will made under false pretenses is invalid and can be challenged in probate court. This could include acts such as forgery, lying, and inaccuracies.
How to Challenge a Will
You can challenge a will if you stand to benefit significantly from the will’s outcome, even if you’re not listed as a beneficiary. To contest a will, you must file a petition with the probate court handling the estate within 90 days of the Notice of Administration (the formal beginning of probate). The petition should specify whether you want the will to be revoked, modified, or made invalid. It should also explain why you’re challenging the will. After the estate is notified, the case will either be settled or go to a hearing for a judge to determine the will’s validity.
Boutty Law Firm: Central Florida Probate Attorneys
Contesting a will can be a challenging and emotional process. However, sometimes there’s too much at stake, and action must be taken to preserve your family’s legacy. At Boutty Law Firm, our experienced legal team can provide the guidance you need to navigate challenging a will. To schedule a consultation, please call our Orlando office at 407-622-1395.