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Possible grounds for challenging a valid will

A will is a deceased family member's attempt to reach out and speak to his or her loved ones one final time. With this document the testator explains in detail what he or she wants to do with all of his or her worldly possessions. This can include property, vehicles, jewelry and financial accounts such as IRAs, 401Ks, stocks and bonds. In most cases, the will carefully and clearly explains what is to become of all of the testator's estate now that he or she is gone. However, what if a family member believes that the will is not valid? Is it possible to go to court and challenge and change someone's final will and testament?

It is not easy to challenge a legally drawn up will. That is because courts view someone's will as the voice of the person who wrote it. But if someone truly believes that there were serious issues when a will was drawn up, they may try to have that will overturned in a court of law.

One of the most successful methods to challenging a will is to argue against the testamentary capacity of the testator. Simply put, this means that the challenger believes that the person who drew up the will did not have the mental capacity to understand what he or she was actually drawing up. This lack of mental capacity could have been due to a variety of reasons including dementia, insanity, senility or even substance abuse. Anyone using this reasoning has to prove that the will maker did not understand what the effects of drawing up the will would actually be.

Another method of challenging a will is to argue that the document is either a forgery or that it is fraudulent or is the result of someone's undue influence on the testator. But the challenger must be able to show this other person's excessive influence on the will maker, perhaps by pointing out to the court that an overwhelmingly large portion of the testator's estate now stands to be inherited by this one person.

There are other possible ways of challenging a will including having a more recently written will supplant an older version. But these situations illustrate a few of the potential problems that could arise if someone is unsatisfied with a close family member's will. This is why a rock solid will should be the cornerstone of the testator's estate planning and must be carefully and thoughtfully drawn up.

Source: Findlaw.com, "Reasons to challenge a will," April 14, 2015

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