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What Circumstances Lead to a Will Contest?

Death affects people differently, but for most of us it is never timely. When a family member passes away, families are confronted with bereavement, with the need to readjust emotionally and financially, and with the need to follow through with certain legal proceedings that settle the decedent's affairs and their estate. There are many disadvantages associated with dying without a will, otherwise known as dying intestate; for example, when an individual dies without a will, their property is disposed according to state law. The laws regarding distributing property are very strict and the laws don't play any favorites. The law won't take into consideration the nature of the heirs' relationships with the decedent or one heir's particular need over another's; therefore, dying without a will is known for triggering unwanted delays and costs.

To remedy the above situation, people often elect to establish a will so they can have control over who gets what property and when. The creator of the will is called the testator, who through a will can avoid many problems that come with dying without a will. Unfortunately, despite one's best efforts, a testator cannot control every action of one or more of their heirs or even the executor's actions after they pass.

Will contests typically arise with larger estates and the only person who stands to contest a will is an interested party, meaning someone who has a direct economic interest in the estate; for example, the person contesting the will may be any beneficiary or it can be someone who stands to inherit from the testator if the will is found to be invalid.

When a will is offered for probate, the proponent of the will has the duty of proving that the will was executed in accordance with state law. However, on occasion, upon reviewing the will, the testator's beneficiaries or relatives may be dissatisfied with the testator's bequests. If a beneficiary or heir elects to challenge a will after the will is admitted to probate, the burden of proof then shifts to the "contestants," those contesting the will.

The legal remedy for a dissatisfaction of a will is called a will contest, in which case a contestant or contestants may attempt to discredit the will on any one or more grounds including:

  • The testator lacked the mental capacity to create the will.
  • The will was executed under fraud, duress or undue influence.
  • The will was executed under insane delusion of the testator.

Depending on the facts of the case and the direction that it takes, the result of a will contest my include deeming a will invalid resulting in intestacy or the reinstatement of an earlier will, or it may result in another outcome. If you are interested in learning more details about will contests in Houston and Harris County, please contact an estate planning attorney form Shepherd & Associates.

Shepherd & Associates - Houston Estate Planning Lawyer
Located at 14090 Southwest Freeway, Suite 300
Sugar Land, TX 77478
Phone: (713) 993-7791
Website:
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The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.

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