The decision to contest a will is not an easy step to take. However, to ensure your loved one’s actual wishes are carried out, a will contest sometimes may be necessary, and making sure you have appropriate legal guidance is vital. For years, the Nashville wills contest lawyers at Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard, PLLC have been helping families contest the validity of wills throughout Middle Tennessee. We understand how hard these decisions can be and work hard to make sure the process goes smoothly and without much stress.
Contesting a Will: What You Need to Know
A will contest is a formal objection that has been raised by an individual who believes the document is invalid. To contest the validity of a will, you need to have one of the following reasons:
Testamentary Capacity – The person must have been of sound mind at the time of the will’s creation. Not only did the individual know he/she was making a will and its effect but also know the nature and value of the estate, understand the consequences of including or excluding people from the will, and should not be suffering a “disorder of the mind” that could have an influence on their views.
Lack of Valid Execution – Also known as “lack of due execution,” the will must meet certain requirements in order to be considered valid. These requirements are:
The will is in writing and signed by either the testator or someone who was directed to do so by the testator
The testator’s signature appears to give effect to the will and was made or acknowledge in the presence of at least two witnesses
Each witness must either sign or attest the will, or acknowledge the signature in the presence of a testator
The legal presumption that the will has been validly executed unless evidence says otherwise
In addition, the rules about who can and cannot witness a will’s creation are very strict.
Lack of Knowledge and Approval – The individual needs to have the knowledge and approval of the content in the will. Even if the person was of sound mind and the will seems to have been executed properly, if the individual had no knowledge of what is in the document, it could be contested. For example, if the preparer of the will had put something in the will about a charitable gift that the person was unaware of, the will may be considered invalid.
Undue Influence – Sometimes, the individual may be coerced or under duress by another while creating the will. This is considered undue influence. It’s important to note that concrete evidence needs to be shown in the case of undue influence.
Fraudulent or Forged Wills – Much like undue influence, you will need to prove that the will had been forged by another or fraud has taken place.
Rectification and Construction Claims – Rectification of a will may occur if the intentions of the testator had failed to be carried out because of either a clerical error or a failure to understand the instructions.
What Happens When You Contest a Will
Let’s say your grandmother had passed away and you learned that she hadn’t left you anything. But later another will has been discovered, one that says you inherited her home. You decide to contest the will. What happens next?
First, you need to know that there is a statute of limitations concerning will contests. In Tennessee, you have only two years to contest a will at the time the court had approved the will for probate. If the plaintiff is a minor at the time of the discovery of a new will that is made after two years, the two-year rule may be waived. Then you hire an experienced wills contest attorney like one at Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard, PLLC to guide you through the process. We will fight on your behalf and show the court why the will is invalid. If the court finds the will to be invalid, then either an earlier will is enforced or, if there is no earlier will, you can base your contest on how Tennessee intestate laws had divided the estate.
Who Can Contest a Will?
In Tennessee, there are certain individuals who can contest a will. These people include:
Those who would have been entitled to a share of the deceased’s estate; or
Someone who will stand to receive something in the deceased’s will.
However, if the individual is not a beneficiary, and if they would not inherit under intestacy law, they do not have a right to contest the will.
More specifically, a person who is related to the testator may have the standing to contest a will.
Contact Our Nashville Wills Contest Lawyers Now
If you are questioning the validity of a loved one’s will, it’s best to get legal advice on your next steps. For decades, the Tennessee wills contest lawyers at Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard, PLLC have been helping clients throughout Nashville, Springfield, and Middle Tennessee with their estate planning. We are prepared to help you through this difficult time. Contact us today for more information.