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What you should know before challenging a will

| Feb 24, 2019 | Estate And Probate Litigation |

At Riach Gese Jacobs, PLLC, in Seattle, Washington, we represent numerous clients involved in various forms of estate litigation. Consequently, we know that one of the most distressful situations that can arise is a will challenge that can tear a family apart. Therefore, before you challenge someone’s will, you need to be sure that you have valid grounds for doing so.

Just because you believe that you should have received a larger bequest than you did, this is not a valid ground for challenging a will. FindLaw explains that valid grounds include one or more of the following:

  • The decedent lacked the requisite testamentary capacity to make the will; that is, (s)he did not understand the nature and/or extent of his or her property or who his or her natural heirs were.
  • The decedent was under the undue influence of someone else at the time (s)he made his or her will
  • The decedent made the will as the result of someone’s coercion, duress or fraud.
  • The decedent failed to adhere to the requisite rules applicable to wills, such as the proper witnesses and their verifications.
  • The decedent made a valid will subsequent to the one you are challenging.

Testamentary capacity

Bear in mind that testamentary capacity is not synonymous with overall mental capacity. Even if the decedent suffered from beginning Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, senility, etc., at the time (s)he made the will, (s)he still had sufficient testamentary capacity to do so if she understood that (s)he was indeed making his or her last will and testament and also understood how and to whom (s)he was distributing his or her property.

Undue influence

Usually undue influence shows itself via an unexpectedly large bequest to someone, such as the decedent’s caregiver or an adult child, friend, employee or advisor on whom (s)he excessively relied to help him or her make financial decisions. This is especially true if the unusually large bequest is accompanied by the disinheritance of one or more family members who reasonably could have been expected to receive an inheritance.

For further information, please visit this page on our website.