A couple of weeks ago we looked at will contests in Florida and what they involve. Today we are going to go back and revisit the issue to take a little more time to explore some issues our discussion may have glossed over. Will contests can be notoriously complicated, and even though they are rare, a lot of people have concerns about them. Whether you are writing a will and are worried that someone might challenge it later, or are considering challenging a will in court, here are some additional issues you should understand about will contests in Florida.
Burdens of Proof in Will Contests
When someone challenges a will in a Florida court, that person has the burden of proof. This is an essential legal concept that is rather simple in principle, but a little more complicated in practice. What the burden of proof boils down to is that the person who wants to challenge your will has the legal obligation to provide evidence to the court. If the person fails to provide evidence, or doesn’t provide enough persuasive evidence, the court will not overturn the will, and the will contest will fail.
In other words, even if you have the grounds to challenge a will, and standing, you simply cannot file a will contest and expect to win. You have to be prepared to show enough evidence so that a court will be persuaded that the will is invalid.
Specific Evidence Required
If a person challenging the will has the burden of proof, what kind of evidence does the challenger have to show? The answer to that question depends on the kind of grounds used to make the will challenge. As an example, let’s use the rather common grounds for challenging a will: lack of capacity.
When a court looks at the question of whether a testator was competent at the time he or she made a will, it will typically look at one or more of four different factors. The first factor is whether or not the testator understood that the document he or she was making was a last will and testament. Second, the court will try to determine if the testator, at the time of making that document, understood exactly what he or she owned. Third, the court will try to determine if the testator understood who would stand to inherit his or her property should the testator fail to make a will. Fourth, the court will look at whether the testator understood how the choices he or she made in the last will and testament will affect to those who would otherwise inherit had there been no will.
In order to make these determinations, the court might hear expert testimony, look at medical records, speak to witnesses, or accept any other kind of evidence that might shed light on whether the testator had the mental ability to make a last will and testament.