Grounds for Contesting a Will in Texas
A will contest can be a highly emotional, draining experience. It may pit family member against family member, children from a first marriage against a second spouse, or family members against a non-relative who is unexpectedly named as a beneficiary.
No matter which side of a will contest you are on, you will need help from a skilled Texas will contest attorney to see it through. The issues involved can be complex and technical. Careful investigation and preparation and vigorous representation are required for a successful result.
For a will to be invalidated, the challenger must prove that there is something wrong with it. Some common grounds for seeking to invalidate a will include:
Lack of testamentary capacity. A testator must be of sound mind to make a will. That means that when the testator signed the will, the testator must have understood what a will is, that she was signing her will, what property she owned, and whom she would want to benefit. Lack of capacity can be difficult to prove. Medical records and expert medical testimony may be necessary. Just because a person is old or has dementia does not mean she lacks capacity. Even a person with dementia may have sufficient capacity to execute a valid will during a “lucid interval.”
Undue influence. To invalidate a will on the ground of undue influence, the challenger must prove that the testator was so controlled or dominated by another that he or she did not make the will freely and would not have made the will if not for the influence. For example, in one case of undue influence, the testator's second wife wrote his will while he was in the hospital facing major surgery. She conveniently used a kit that allowed for only one beneficiary.
Mistake or fraud. A will may be invalidated if the testator executed it by mistake or was tricked into signing it, without realizing it was a will or misunderstanding its provisions.
Improperly executed. Every Texas will must be properly signed by the testator and witnessed by two witnesses. People who prepare their own wills without help from an attorney do not always have them properly witnessed. A holographic will (one that is handwritten) does not need to be witnessed, but sometimes, a purported holographic will is invalidated because it is not entirely in the testator's handwriting.
Revoked will. Sometimes the testator executed more than one will and questions arise as to which is valid or whether one revoked the other.
Forged will. Obviously, if the testator's signature is forged, the will is invalid.
If a will is found to be invalid by the court, the court will not admit the will to probate. In this situation, a previously executed will may be recognized as valid by the court, or the decedent's estate may be distributed in accordance with the Texas intestacy laws.
If you need representation in a will contest or any other probate litigation, contact the Bryan will contest attorneys at the Peterson Group at 979-703-7014. We are here to help you during this very stressful experience.