Call Today – 386.320.6169
A will is an important component of estate planning, which proceeds through Florida’s probate process. There are, however, instances when wills can be challenged (after the death of the person whose wishes are represented within – known as the testator – but not before). Often, those affected by a loved one’s will are not aware of its contents until after the testator’s death, when the information is revealed via probate. Although wills are designed to uphold the wishes of the people who create them, there are situations in which the law will intervene. If you have questions or concerns about a will that affects you, don’t wait to reach out and discuss the matter with an experienced St. Johns County will contest lawyer.
In Florida, anyone who wishes to contest a will must first file a petition in the relevant probate court. To have the will revoked or invalidated, however, you will need a significant and relevant legal reason for doing so.
One of the most common reasons for challenging a will is its validity, which can be predicated on the competency of the person who created it or can be called into question in relation to the existence of subsequent or additional documents that challenge its contents. The validity of a will can also be called into question in relation to the exertion of any undue influence over the testator.
When a will is contested on the grounds of someone having exerted undue influence on the testator, it refers to a third party’s engagement in some form of manipulation that led to the testator altering the will for that person’s benefit. Often this manipulation amounts to executing an entirely new will, modifying an existing will, or editing a beneficiary to the estate. The exertion of undue influence is the most common reason for challenging the validity of a will, but in order for this claim to prevail, all the following elements must be met:
While every testator has the right to add or remove beneficiaries from their estate planning tools, including their will, doing so as a result of coercion or another form of undue influence is contestable. For example, if the testator in question suffers from Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, a change in beneficiaries that benefits someone who may have exerted undue influence is unlikely to hold up in court.
Wills tend to be exacting legal documents. For them to hold up in court, testators must be up to the job at hand at the time of their creation, meaning having the ability to fully comprehend everything addressed in the will, including matters related to assets and beneficiaries and the overall effect of the document. If the testator experiences diminished capacity related to any of the following, it could support a contested will:
Anything else that interferes with the testator’s ability to make well-informed decisions can also suffice, including what is termed insane delusion. If you can demonstrate that the testator drafted the will while in the throes of what can be identified as legal insanity, you can contest it. The Supreme Court of Florida finds that an insane delusion amounts to a spontaneous and unwavering acceptance of something – that exists only in the imagination – as fact in spite of all evidence and reason to the contrary.
If a testator’s will is the direct result of someone else’s threats against them, it naturally calls the document’s validity into question. This question applies to the overall will as well as to any modifications that are made.
Another reason for contesting a will is the claim that someone committed fraud on the estate, which generally means that the will was executed under false pretenses. An example is when a beneficiary misrepresents relevant facts or lies to the testator to influence the will’s creation or to alter a will that’s already in place. Fraud on the estate can come in any of the following forms:
Forgery is another obvious form of fraud. If the testator’s signature is determined to be a forgery, the court will almost certainly invalidate it.
A will is a legal document that must rise to the level of being accepted by the court and must include all of the following:
In other words, there are a variety of highly specific circumstances in which a will can be called into question, but the legalities are so exacting that having a dedicated will contest lawyer in St. Johns on your side is always in your best interest.
Generally, those who are allowed to contest a will include the following:
In Florida, after the Notice of Administration – which notifies all interested parties regarding the death of the individual in question – is dispersed by the administrator of the estate, you have a mere 90 days to make a move in relation to contesting the will. Doing so includes all the following:
When a claimant charges that undue influence was exerted, they make the assertion that the testator’s actions in relation to the will were not voluntary due to someone else’s pressure, influence, or persuasion. The individual who challenges a will on these grounds shoulders the burden of establishing that undue influence was exerted.
To execute a will in Florida, the testator must be of sound mind, meaning that they must clearly comprehend all the following:
Establishing testamentary capacity is a lower bar than the establishment of standard capacity. In fact, factors such as the following do not – on their own – establish a lack of testamentary capacity:
The testator’s testamentary capacity is typically presumed, and a lack of such capacity must be proven by the person who is challenging the will. Further, it must be demonstrated that the testator lacked testamentary capacity at the time the will was signed, which makes the burden of proof that much more difficult.
The first order of business when it comes to a will is proper execution, which is typically a more straightforward inroad into contesting it. To begin, the testator must be at least 18 years old and of sound mind to create a valid will in Florida. At this point, the will must be examined to ensure that all the following requirements are met:
Thomas Upchurch is a trusted will contest lawyer at Upchurch Law Attorney in St. Johns, Florida, who is committed to helping clients like you effectively and efficiently resolve their contested will concerns. We are here for you, too, so please don’t wait to contact or call us at 386-320-6169 for more information today.
Probate is the court supervised process in which a deceased person’s assets are transferred to the beneficiaries listed in his or her will.READ MORE
Estate planning is not a one-time event: It’s an evolving, ongoing process that addresses your future needs. With the guidance of a FloridaREAD MORE
A will is intended to ensure that the creator’s assets are distributed according to his or her wishes, rather than passing according toREAD MORE
When a loved one appoints a trustee to handle their financial affairs, they typically choose someone in whom they have absolute confidence. WhenREAD MORE
If a loved one has become incapacitated and is no longer able to care for themselves, or you fear someone may be takingREAD MORE
With a growing senior population, exploitation of the elderly is an escalating concern. Seniors often depend on family members or caregivers for evenREAD MORE
In Florida, most estates must be submitted to formal probate administration. In a formal probate matter, the court supervises administration of the estate,READ MORE
The Florida probate process can be taxing. In some circumstances, the law allows for a summary probate administration process that is typically lessREAD MORE
Trusts offer many advantages, both during the grantor’s lifetime and as an estate planning tool. However, one aspect that is often overlooked isREAD MORE
Many people do not realize that when a will is submitted to probate or an intestate estate is opened, the probate court onlyREAD MORE
In Florida, the personal representative appointed to administer an estate is responsible for managing the estate and distributing assets to the heirs. InREAD MORE
In Florida, a personal representative is appointed to administer an estate. When the deceased leaves a will, the will typically contains a provisionREAD MORE