A will is a binding legal document detailing the proper distribution of a deceased person’s estate. Contesting the contents of a will can be a costly and long process. It is not something to entertain just because you don’t like what it says. You must have what’s referred to as standing and grounds to legally contest a will.
What do you mean by “standing”?
In a will contest, having standing means that you have a stake in the outcome. You must be either an intestate heir or a beneficiary named in the will to contest one. It’s important to file a will contest relatively quickly as you only have two years to do so in the state of Texas.
What do you mean by “grounds”?
Having grounds means having an adequate legal reason to contest. As previously stated, not liking the terms of the will is not enough. One of the following must be true:
- The legal formalities weren’t observed. Texas requires the person for whom the will applies aka the testator to be eighteen years or older and of sound mind. Two witnesses must be present at the signing. Oral wills require three witnesses instead of two.
- The individual lacked testamentary capacity at the time of the signing. If you go this route, you would have the burden of proving mental incapacitation in court.
- Someone exerted undue influence on the testator. This could be a spouse or perhaps even a child. Again, the burden of proof falls on the one contesting the will. It is often difficult to prove these grounds.
- Someone tricked the individual into signing the will, making it fraudulent. This would invalidate the will. However, this can be difficult to prove without the chief witness—the testator.
You’ll need evidence to back up your suspicions. Consider consulting an attorney before filing to contest a will to discuss whether you have enough to back up your claims to be successful in your aims.