Object to a Will
When a loved one passes away and leaves a will, it is not uncommon for family members to be unhappy with the terms of the will. One of the main advantages of writing a will is that the testator controls who gets his (or her) assets. Some relatives may believe that they should have received a larger share of the decedent’s estate, while others may be angry that they were completely disinherited. The Florida circuit court will honor the terms of a will, as long as the will is valid. If someone feels that a will is invalid or unfair, Florida law provides a procedure for those who object to a will to file a will contest in the circuit court. If you object to a will and would like information about how to petition the court to challenge the will, contact an experienced Fort Lauderdale will contest attorney to discuss your concerns.Standing to Contest a Will
While there may be a variety of people who believe that a will is unfair or invalid, under Florida law only people who have legal standing have the right to petition the circuit court to contest the validity of a will. For purposes of a will contest those who have legal standing are people who have an interest in the matter. This class of people is very limited and would include the personal representatives, beneficiaries, beneficiaries of a prior will, and statutory heirs. Beneficiaries are those who are named in the will. Statutory heirs are those who would stand to inherit if there was no will.Grounds for Contesting a Will
In Florida, when contesting a will by objecting to probate, you must have a specific reason. The reason must be more than you feel you should have received larger share. Common grounds for contesting a will include lack of testamentary capacity, undue influence, and improper execution.
- Lack of testamentary capacity. Under the Florida Probate Code in order to create a valid will, the testator must not have suffered from a mental incapacity at the time the will was executed. This that the he (or she) must have understood what it means to make a will, the nature and extent of his assets, and who his next of kin are. While it is easy to believe that someone who suffers from a condition such as Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia would lack the capacity to make a will, to object to a will it is not enough that the testator was diagnosed with a condition that may result in memory lapses or confusion at times. There must be evidence that at the time that the testator executed the will he or she did not have the mental capacity to appreciate what he was doing. To learn more about what evidence is needed to challenge a will based on the lack of testamentary capacity, contact an experienced Fort Lauderdale will contest attorney to discuss your concerns.
- Undue influence. A will would not be valid based if someone illegally manipulated the testator to make a will favorable to that person. Typically, the person who exerted the influence was in some sort of power relationship with respect to a vulnerable testator. Undue influence can be psychological or physical. For example, a caregiver responsible for feeding a testator, could effectively force a testator to change his will by withholding food.
- Improper execution. Under Florida law in order for a will to be valid there are certain technicalities that must be followed. The will must be in writing as Florida will not probate oral wills. The will must be signed by the testator in the presence of two witnesses, and the witnesses must also sign the will. Florida will not probate a holographic will which is one that was handwritten and not witnessed. Failure to follow these technical requirements would mean that the will is invalid.
As a will contest attorney in Fort Lauderdale will explain, if an interested party successfully challenges the validity of a will, the circuit court judge would have no choice but to throw it out. That would mean that the judge would proceed as if that will never existed. If there is a prior will that is determine to be valid, that will would be probated. Otherwise the decedent’s estate would be managed and assets will be distributed based on the rules of intestate succession.Contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates
If you are a beneficiary or an heir and would like to object to will, it is important that you contact a will contest attorney serving Fort Lauderdale immediately as the timeframe for filing a will contest is very limited. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates have the resources to protect your interests in your estate matter. We have years of experience successfully representing beneficiaries, executors, heirs, and fiduciaries in probate court matters. We are here to help. Contact us attorneys at 561-710-4000 to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case.