A will is a vital estate planning document that ensures a loved one’s property and possessions are distributed to beneficiaries as desired once they pass away. However, people may not always agree on how the will was drafted or executed. When there is a disagreement about a will’s validity or how assets are distributed, it can be formally challenged in a process called contested probate. Here is what you need to know about contested probate.
Who Can Challenge a Will?
Anyone vested in someone’s will can contest it in court. Often, people who contest a will are family members who believe they are not receiving their fair share of the estate or believe they have been improperly removed from a will.
How Long Do You Have to Contest a Will in Florida?
A formal petition to contest a will must be filed within 90 days of the Notice of Administration, which is the formal announcement that the probate process has begun. This rule has a few exceptions, such as when probate proceedings were hidden from an interested party. If you wish to contest a will, speak with a probate attorney quickly to ensure you meet this deadline.
How to Contest a Will
To contest a will, you must file a formal petition while the probate proceedings are open in the county overseeing the probate process. In your petition, you must explain why you believe the will should be modified, revoked, or invalidated. Once the petition is filed, a judge will schedule a hearing to determine the will’s validity.
Grounds for Contesting a Will
When formally challenging a will, you must provide a reason why you believe the will is invalid. Here are some common reasons for contesting a will in Florida:
Undue Influence or Duress
Undue influence is one of the most common ways wills are contested. Undue influence or duress is when a will is altered under the threat of harm or created under the forceful manipulation of a beneficiary.
A valid will must follow specific guidelines as described in Florida Statute 732.502. Wills must be written documents signed by the testator (the person creating the will) and two witnesses. The entire document may be considered invalid if these requirements are not followed.
To draft a will, the decedent must be of sound mind and operating at full mental capacity. A will can be challenged if evidence suggests that the decedent suffered from an ongoing condition such as dementia that would prevent them from understanding the full effect of the document they created.
If you believe you were unjustly removed from someone’s will, you can contest it in court. You must provide evidence that the decedent had the intention to include you in the will but that you were wrongly or mistakenly removed. One of the best ways to prove this is to show that you were included in a previous version of the will.
Merritt Island Probate Attorney: Brian W. Hurd
If you wish to challenge someone’s will, having an experienced probate attorney like Brian W. Hurd on your side is essential. We will help you navigate the process to ensure your loved one’s will is executed correctly. Call our office at 321-453-5007 to make an appointment and discuss your case.