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Probate Law 101: When Should You Contest a Will?

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If you've recently lost a loved one, you're probably finding yourself facing the probate process. Your loved one's will is an important part of this process. However, if you or someone else in your family is uncertain about the validity of that will, you have the legal right to contest it. Understanding the grounds with which you can contest a will is important. Here's a look at a few of the reasons you may want to talk with your probate lawyer about contesting the will.

Was Your Loved One in Sound Mental Health?

One of the most common reasons to contest a will is concern that the will was produced when the deceased was already affected by something such as dementia or Alzheimer's. If so, there's definitely room for uncertainty about the validity of the information.

This is an especially important consideration if the will that you've been presented with doesn't seem to match what you would have expected from the deceased. If you aren't certain that the will itself was produced while he or she was still in sound mental health, you should talk with your lawyer about contesting its contents.

Is There Any Evidence of Coercion?

Another problem that often occurs when a family member is nearing the end of their life is manipulation or coercion. When someone in the family is adamant about having something left to them, there's the possibility that they may have bribed, coerced, or otherwise forced their loved ones into changing their will.

If you have any reason to believe that the will presented to the court was drafted as a result of something like this, you need to talk with your attorney about contesting it on those grounds. Your lawyer can tell you what you'll need to show to prove your case.

Is There More Than One Will?

Sometimes, people make changes to their will and fail to destroy or invalidate the previous version. If you've found more than one version of your loved one's will, and they are substantially different, the courts typically will evaluate them and choose the most recently dated version.

However, what happens when there is no date on the documents? If you can't clearly tell when each one was drafted, that leaves questions about which one is the most recent. You'll have to talk with your probate law attorney about contesting the will on the grounds of the additional version. Then, the courts will evaluate them and make a ruling on which one is enforceable.