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Can A Will Be Contested No Matter What?

 Posted on June 25, 2024 in Estate Planning and Administration

TX estate lawyerWhen a loved one passes away, the distribution of his or her assets according to the will left behind may not always align with the expectations or wishes of the heirs. Understandably, this can lead to anger and dissatisfaction, which can rapidly lead to disputes. However, a will cannot be contested just because the heirs are unhappy. There must be a legal basis for such a challenge in Texas.

Lack of testamentary capacity and undue influence are two legally sound and valid examples of when a will can be contested. If you believe you have the legal basis to contest a will or are wondering whether you have the legal basis, contact a lawyer.

What to Know About Lack of Testamentary Capacity

One of the most common reasons for contesting a will is the claim that the testator, or the person who created the will, lacked testamentary capacity at the time the will was made. Testamentary capacity is a big word that refers to the mental fitness of the person creating the will and whether the person understands the implications of his or her decisions regarding the division of the estate.

Indicators of Lack of Capacity

Some examples of lack of capacity include:

  • Certain mental health issues – Conditions such as Alzheimer's disease, dementia, or other cognitive impairments can significantly affect someone's ability to make sound decisions about his or her will.
  • Influence of medication – Medications that impair cognitive functions can also compromise the testator's capacity to understand the consequences of his or her actions.
  • Awareness of estate and beneficiaries – The testator must comprehend what assets he or she owns, who the natural heirs are, and the impact of his or her bequests. If the testator fails to understand these key aspects, it can be argued that the person lacks the capacity to create a valid will.

To contest a will on grounds of testamentary incapacity, one typically needs strong evidence, such as medical records or professional testimony, that clearly demonstrates the testator's compromised mental state at the time of the will's execution.

What to Know About Undue Influence

Another significant ground for contesting a will is undue influence. This occurs when someone exerts excessive pressure on the testator, effectively overriding his or her free will and manipulating decisions regarding the distribution of the estate.

Indicators of Undue Influence

Some indicators of undue influence may include:

  • Isolation – If the testator was isolated from family or friends, he or she may have been more vulnerable to undue influence.
  • Dependency – Situations where the testator was heavily dependent on the influencer for care or emotional support may raise red flags. The influencer might take advantage of this dependency to sway the testator's decisions in his or her favor.
  • Sudden or uncharacteristic changes – If significant, last-minute changes were made to the will that benefit someone unexpectedly or disproportionately, this might suggest undue influence.

To prove undue influence, one must usually show that the influencer had the opportunity and motive to exert pressure and that the testator's decisions were indeed affected by this pressure.

Contact a Hill County, TX Estate Planning Lawyer

While a will cannot be contested on a whim, there are valid legal grounds for challenging its legitimacy. Lack of testamentary capacity and undue influence are two primary reasons courts recognize for contesting a will. If you believe you have a legitimate reason to challenge a will, it is crucial to consult with a legal professional. Contact our Tarrant County, TX estate planning attorney with Cain & Kiel Law. Call 817-645-1717 for a private consultation.

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