The loss of a close family member is a time filled with heightened emotions that may include grief, sadness, anger, and even confusion. While all of these emotions are completely natural, and well-founded, you may also find suspicion among the emotions you are feeling after seeing the Last Will and Testament submitted to probate. If you have reason to believe that the Will submitted is not valid, you may be entitled to challenge its validity through a legal process known as a Will contest. If you are considering a Will contest, you will need to consult with probate attorneys to ensure that you have standing to pursue the matter and that you have legal grounds on which the Will could be declared invalid.
What Does It Mean to Contest a Will?
If you are considering challenging the Last Will and Testament left behind by your loved one, you obviously feel there is a reason to do so. Before proceeding any further, however, you need to ask yourself why you want to pursue a Will contest and make sure you understand what it means to contest a Will. To contest a Will, you must allege legal grounds on which the Will could be declared invalid. The fact that you are unhappy about your inheritance, or lack of inheritance, cannot be the basis for invalidating the Will. Therefore, if your reason for wanting to pursue a Will contest is based on the value, type, or number of gifts you are supposed to receive according to the terms of the decedent’s Will, you do not have the legal grounds necessary to contest the Will.
Who Can Contest a Will in Florida?
To bring a legal action challenging the validity of a Last Will and Testament in the State of Florida you must have “standing,” which is a legal term effectively meaning the right to bring the lawsuit. To have standing, you must be an “interested person.” Generally speaking, this means any of the following:
- Beneficiary under the Will submitted to probate
- Beneficiary under a prior Will
- Legal heir to the estate
- Creditor of the estate
When Must a Will Contest Be Initiated?
Along with having standing to bring a Will contest, you must make sure the action is filed in a timely manner, meaning within the time frame allotted by law in the State of Florida. The time allotted by law to contest a Will in Florida is relatively short. Typically, you must initiate a Will contest within 90 days after the Notice of Administration has been provided by the Personal Representative, or 20 days in the event that Formal Notice of the probate proceeding is received before the Will has been admitted to probate.
What Are the Grounds for Contesting a Will in Florida?
As previously mentioned, you must have legal grounds on which the Will could be declared invalid to file a Will contest. In the State of Florida, those grounds include:
- Lack of proper formalities – this refers to an improperly executed Will. For example, if there were no witnesses to the signing of the Will.
- Lack of testamentary capacity – this refers to a claim that the Testator lacked the necessary mental competency to make a will, meaning that he/she did not understand the nature of his or her assets and the people to whom the assets were going to be distributed.
- Undue influence – refers to a situation where a Testator is compelled or coerced to execute a Will by applying improper pressure or persuasion. Usually, this is done by someone in a position of trust close to the Testator, such as a family member, caregiver, or even healthcare worker.
- Insane delusion – refers to a situation when a Testator, against all evidence to the contrary, believes something that is not true, and creates or changes an estate planning document, in this case a Will, based on the insane delusion.
- Fraud – refers to a situation wherein someone causes the Testator to make or change a Will based on misrepresentations.
Contact Florida Probate Attorneys
For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns regarding the pursuit of a Will contest in the State of Florida, contact the experienced Florida probate attorneys at Kulas Law Group by calling (772) 398-0720 to schedule an appointment.