Reasons to Contest a Will
In Florida, one of the reasons that people create a last will and testament is to memorialize their final wishes. When written and executed properly a will is a legally enforceable document that describes exactly what the testator wants to happen with his (or her) estate once he passes away. Unfortunately there are times in which the will does not actually reflect the wishes of the testator. There are occasions in which there is evidence that fraud was involved in the making of the will, or that the testator did not have the mental capacity to execute the will. These are reasons to contest a will. If you believe that the will of a relative or friend does not actually reflect his wishes, and you have reasons to contest a will, immediately contact an experienced Fort Lauderdale will contest lawyer to discuss your concerns. We will explain to you the process for petitioning the circuit court in Fort Lauderdale to challenge the validity of the will.Reasons to Contest a Will
In Florida, if you would like to contest a will that has been submitted to the court for probate, you must file a petition objecting to probating that will. In addition, only those who have standing have the legal right to object. To have standing you must have a financial interest in the outcome of the objection. This would include the personal representative, the beneficiaries under the will that is being contested, beneficiaries under a prior will, and statutory heirs.
Reasons to contest a will include:
- Lack of testamentary capacity. Lack of testamentary capacity means that the testator either was too young to execute a will, or that the testator suffered some sort of cognitive impairment that prevented him from having the mental capacity to make a will. Under Florida law a person must be at least 18-years old in order to have the capacity to make an enforceable will. In addition, in order to make a will the testator must understand that he is making a will and what the affect of making a will is. The testator must also understand the nature in value of his estate. This does not mean that the testator must know the exact value of his estate, but that he must have a general idea of the value. He also must have an idea of what is including in his estate. In addition, the testator must understand who his relatives are and understand the consequences of including or excluding his relatives and other potential beneficiaries.
- Ineffective execution. Another reason to contest a will is that there was a lack of proper execution. As a Fort Lauderdale will contest lawyer will explain, under Florida law in order for a will to be valid it must be executed in a very specific way. The will must be in writing—oral wills are not valid. The testator must sign the will in the presence of at least two witnesses. The witness must also sign the will. Holographic wills are not valid.
- Undue influence. Another reason to contest a will is that the testator executed the will based on the undue influence of another person. Undue influence means that someone else manipulated a vulnerable testator to make a will that he would not have otherwise have made. In other words, by placing the testator under mental or physical duress, the testator was stripped of his free will in making the will.
The consequence of a successful will contest are either that the circuit court judge will decline to admit the will to probate and will instead probate a prior valid will, or in the absence of a prior valid will, the judge will distribute the decedent’s assets according to Florida’s intestate succession statute. Regardless of the outcome, a will contest will undoubtedly delay the administration process and result in added expense to the estate.
If you are a beneficiary in the contested will, named as a beneficiary in a prior will, or if you are an heir, It is important to discuss how the invalidating of a loved one’s will will impact you with a will contest attorney in Fort Lauderdale.Contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates
Whatever the reason for contesting a loved one’s will, a will contest is legally complex, requiring a thorough understanding of Florida probate law. You should not attempt to resolve it on your own without an attorney. It is critical to have an experienced will contest attorney serving Fort Lauderdale representing you during what will likely be a contentious process. The experienced attorneys at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates have years of experience representing personal representatives, beneficiaries, and heirs in will contests as other types of estate litigation. We are here to help. Contact us attorneys at 561-710-4000 to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case.