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Estate Battle: Can A Sibling Being Left Out Of A Will Contest It?

Family disputes can be terrible. They often turn loving relationships into grudges that last generations. Usually, this happens over something petty, but sometimes, a dispute can come from life-changing events like a parent’s death. Typically, if a parent leaves a will, everyone gets their dues and moves on as they process their grief. However, there are instances where someone feels they’ve been dealt a bad hand or treated unfairly. This can cause a lot of stress and friction, resulting in that person contesting the will. So, can a sibling who was left out of the will contest it?

Grounds For Contesting A Will

In most states, a will can be contested if any of these four legal reasons are met. Though it is hard to prove any of them, not to mention doing so is expensive, you can contest and invalidate the entire testament.

1. The Signing Violates Applicable State Laws

Each state has specific laws on how a will should be signed. For example, if it is being signed in Florida, the testator (the person writing the will) must sign it in the presence and hearing of two witnesses. All of them must be in the same room at the same time and must watch as each person signs the will. If no witnesses are present during the signing, then the testament can be invalidated.

2. The Testator Lacked Testamentary Capacity To Sign

This deals with the testator understanding the legal effect of signing a will. The testator understands the value of their assets and who they will be given to upon their passing. To use this reason, there would need to be proof of impaired mental capacity during the signing of the will.

3. Undue Influence

As we get older, our mental and physical weaknesses can make us easily susceptible to the influence of others. If that weakness was exploited, then it could be grounds for contesting the will. This would require proof that the testator was put under severe duress, which causes him to lose free will and succumb to the preference of the influencer.

4. Procured By Fraud

Cases where the signing of the will was procured by fraud usually involve the testator being tricked. They were told that they were signing one thing (e.g., a deed) when in fact, it was something else.

Who Can Contest

According to Probate Law, wills can only be contested by spouses, children, heirs-at-law, or people mentioned in or any previous testament. An heir-at-law is someone so closely related to the testator that they would’ve been given a share of the estate if the testator had died without a will. You can speak with legal experts here to determine how a contestant can be classified as an heir-at-law. If an heir-at-law does win the contest, then the property passes to them in a process known as “intestate succession.” This would be equivalent to the decedent not having a will in the first place. f the decedent had multiple children and one was left out of it, that child can contest the document. They would need to prove that they weren’t intentionally left out or that the document is invalid due to the reasons we mentioned above. Either way, it will not be easy, and they would have to be prepared for the expenses that come with such a contest.

How to Contest

A will can only be contested when it’s being probated. Based on the state it is being probated in, you’ll need to know the required forms to fill out and file. You can hire a local attorney to make this process easier. Keep in mind that filing this contest will cause a lot of attorney and court fees that you might not be prepared to pay. Your lawyer will fight to enforce a previous will that has you in it or invalidate the current testament entirely. If several of them don’t include you, they will all need to be invalidated. If you’re unable to absorb those costs, then your lawyer can work with the estate through mediation. This avoids court battles that could wear you out and still leave you with nothing. Mediation can lead to a satisfying resolution without the hassle and expense of taking the case to court.

Contesting a testament can get ugly. If you’re a sibling who has been cut out of your parent’s will, then you have legal reasons to contest it. Be mindful, though; this pursuit requires finding proof to invalidate the testament, hiring a lawyer to file your contest, and absorbing the legal fees that come with it.

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