When a loved one dies, and they have a will, the will usually makes it easier to settle their estate. A will provides direction and explains how to distribute a decedent’s assets and wealth. But when a will contains unexpected distributions and surprises, everything about settling the estate gets much more complicated.
One of the reasons strange twists in wills make things more complicated is that they often lead to will contests. However, you or the other interested parties can only contest a will if you have a legal reason. Here are three of the most common reasons to challenge a will:
Legal competency, “of sound mind” and incapacity are all legal terms that mean the same thing: The person who was signing the will did not understand their actions. In other words, the testator did not know what they were doing when they signed their will.
Depending on the facts of the case, perhaps the testator did not understand that they were signing a will. Or maybe, the testator did not have the capability to understand the concept of a will when they signed. The testator’s competency is a legal reason to contest a will.
Sometimes, a caregiver, a new love interest or someone else close to the decedent before they died had ulterior motives. When an elderly person or someone who is suffering from an illness is in a vulnerable state, they are more susceptible to manipulation. Their weakened state could make it easier for someone to persuade them to change their will.
When the decedent changed their will in favor of a caregiver or a new love interest right before they died, you can make a legal argument that they unduly influenced the decedent.
In the state of Kansas, there are laws that explain how to execute a will. People need to follow certain steps to ensure a will is valid under the eyes of the law. If a testator does not follow these steps correctly, the will may be incomplete or not legally valid.
For example, a valid will includes the notarized signature of two witnesses. If the decedent creates a modified will but does not get the notarized signature of two witnesses, the heirs or creditors could contest the will on the grounds that it was not legally valid.
Contesting a will is complicated
When a loved one dies, contesting the will makes the probate process much more complicated. But if you expected something from an earlier version of the will and found yourself excluded from a new will, you may want to challenge the changes. Or if you would have inherited money and assets if no will existed, but the will directs those assets to a recent caregiver, a will contest may help you reclaim your inheritance. Sometimes, will contests can also bring much-needed closure and give families the opportunity to set the record straight.