When people hear that you are an estate planning lawyer, it isn’t uncommon to get questions about challenging a will. Will challenges, also known as contesting a will, are common tropes in television, fiction, and film. However, challenging a will is a rather uncommon occurrence in the world of estate planning, even though it is sometimes possible. To help you better understand how you might go about challenging a will, what would be required of you, and what the results might be, let’s take a look at some important questions.
What does challenging a will involve?
Not just anyone can challenge a will, and you cannot do it simply because you don’t like what the document has to say. There are two essential concepts you have to understand if you want to challenge a will. The first of these is the concept of standing.
In order to challenge a will, you have to have legal standing. This means that the law must recognize your ability to contest the will or its terms. In order to have standing you must be able to show that you would have inherited from a previous will, would have inherited had the testator died without leaving behind a will, or are a beneficiary under the terms of the current will.
If you can show you have standing, you must then have grounds upon which you can challenge the will. Having grounds simply means that you have a legally recognized reason for why the court should reject the current will. Though there are many types of grounds available, some of the most common include challenging the will on the basis that the testator lack capacity to make it, or that the testator was under the undue influence of another person when he or she made the will.
What will be required of me if I challenge a will?
Challenging a will is like filing any other type of civil lawsuit. If you decide to challenge the document, it’s up to you to prove that your case has merit. You will have to be able to provide evidence to a court in order to persuade it that the last will and testament should be rejected.
What happens if I successfully challenge the will?
That depends on the circumstances, but it typically results in the court determining that the will is no longer valid. Should this happen, the decedent’s property would likely pass to the intestate inheritors as outlined by Florida intestate succession laws. For more information on how intestate succession works, you’ll need to talk to us for additional details.