If your loved one left behind a last will and testament, that document will likely act as the touchstone for the handling of the deceased's estate. This document likely discloses instructions on the distribution of assets, guardians for minor children and other pertinent information. However, you may find yourself wondering about the validity of the will, and if strong reasons exist for this concern, you may wish to consider contesting the document.
Multiple reasons could give cause for the contesting of a will. Among those reasons are:
- Undue influence: In cases of undue influence, an individual may have faced coercion, intimidation or other actions that caused him or her to feel the need to change his or her will. Elderly individuals, disabled parties or other people in vulnerable positions may prove particularly susceptible to such influence. As a result, a will may not reflect the true intentions of the creator.
- Outdated will: Many individuals wisely update their wills to keep up with changes throughout life that may need addressing in the document. However, earlier drafts of the document should lose validity as the updated document takes the place of older versions. If an updated will exists and an individual attempts to use an older version due to more favorable details or other reasons, you may have reason to contest the use of that will.
- Lack of testamentary capacity: Though the phrase may seem intimidating, testamentary capacity essentially represents an individual's ability to make the decisions necessary to create a valid will. Adults who have lost mental capacity due to dementia, Alzheimer's disease or other mental afflictions are often considered not to have the mental ability to make sound decisions. If you feel that a will was drafted while an individual was mentally unstable due to such illness or possibly due to being under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you may have the ability to argue against the validity of the will.
- Lack of qualifications: Within each state, certain laws exist that detail the qualifications a valid will must meet. If a will does not meet the necessary qualifications, the court will likely not consider it valid.
If you believe that your loved one's estate is not being properly handled due to the use of an invalid will, you may wish to consider your options for addressing your concerns. In many cases, filing a dispute with the court in order to contest the will allows you to present your arguments as to why the will may be invalid.
If you are concerned about the legal process that such an endeavor entails, you may wish to seek assistance from experienced Maryland attorneys.