If you don’t agree with a loved one’s will, you cannot challenge simply because you disagree with it. To bring a legitimate challenge to court, there must be a legal reason why the court should declare it invalid. Unfortunately, this is often very hard to do because probate courts in Chicago and across the country consider a last will and testament to be the decedent’s final wishes. However, it is still possible to prove that a will is invalid.
In general, there are four legal reasons to contest a will. If one of these applies to your loved one’s last will and testament, you might be able to successfully contest it in court.
Not legally signed
Each state has laws that dictate how a person must sign a will to make it valid. For instance, the person who created and is leaving the will must sign it. In addition, the document may need to have the signatures of witnesses or be notarized. The lack of valid signatures is a common reason for a court to declare a will invalid.
Lack of capacity
The person who creates and leaves the will must also have capacity to do so. In other words, the signor must understand the nature of the will, the value of the assets in the will and who should inherit the assets. For example, if the decedent did not understand that he or she was leaving everything to a non-relative caretaker instead of the children, grandchildren or other logical heirs, then the court might rule in favor of the family and declare the will invalid.
As people age, they often come to rely on another individual to care for them. Sometimes, this individual will exert undue influence and put the aging person under extreme pressure to alter the will in a way to benefit the caretaker. Usually, the person applying pressure has to do more than engage in nagging, threats or verbal abuse. This person has to take other, more extreme actions like contacting the testator’s lawyer to talk about the will, paying for a new will and keeping the testator from having contact with friends or family.
Fraud is another reason why a court might declare a will invalid. For instance, if a fraudster presents a document to the testator to sign and claims that it is anything other than a new will, then the will was signed under fraudulent circumstances. In many cases, fraud and lack of capacity exist together since it is much easier to take advantage of a person that has limited mental capacity.
If one or more of the above circumstances were in existence when your loved one created or signed a will, then you might be able to take legal action. While estate litigation can be a difficult and long road, it is possible to win your case with the right resources and evidence.