After the death of a close relative, the money they have left behind is not always on everyone’s mind. But after the dust has settled, sorting through a will can reveal that individuals who may have assumed they would be left an inheritance were not, which can lead to complicated and messy legal battles with high emotions on both sides. If you have substantial belief that the will of a loved one was not valid or significantly outdated, you may be able to challenge the document for a more accurate interpretation. This is not always possible, and not everyone who thinks they have the right to do so actually is. Here’s a quick look.
Valid Reasons to Challenge: Not all reasons are good ones to challenge, at least not legally. Here are a few that could merit you legal standing and a further look into the validity of the document.
- Fraud, Forgery, or Undue Influence. This is the one you’ll always see in action movies—the wealthy heiress has died, and the evil villain is somehow the sole beneficiary! That can’t be right. If you have proof that the deceased or the will was manipulated or otherwise invalid, it can result in a successful challenge.
- Subsequent Editions. A surprise twist arises in our drama film: the heiress wrote another true will just before death—and you found it! Having an outdated document presented as the most accurate is one sure way to get it thrown out, and possessing the newer document should override the old.
- Testamentary Capacity. This means that the person who made the document was not properly able to do so because they lacked the mental capacity, either through being under the influence of a substance, was senile, or insane.
- Provisions Per State. The laws required by each state for a will to be valid can vary greatly, and if one document is valid in a particular state it won’t necessarily be so in another. If the document you wish to question does not meet the necessary requirements for its designated state, it can be found invalid for this reason.
- Sufficient and Appropriate Witnesses. Just writing a will alone without the proper amount of witnesses for signing, as well as often a legal representative means that it can also be found invalid.
Who Can Challenge for Inheritance Rights? Not everyone is entitled to receive something after a death, and the only people who can even consider challenging the document include children, heirs, spouses, or other creditors. Surviving spouses generally have the largest rights to the assets of their now deceased spouse, and there is no legally protected right to an inheritance for children or grandchildren.
How to Know if Your Case Fits? If you are considering challenging for your inheritance, there is a lot more to the process of determining eligibility than just described in this short post. For a professional legal opinion, contact the attorneys here at Borrus, Goldin, Foley, Vignuolo, Hyman and Stahl PC for a consultation today at 732-422-1000.