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Maryland probate laws: When can you contest a will?

If you lose a loved one, whether expected or unexpectedly, it takes time to process your grief and learn how to move on in life without your family member. Perhaps the decedent named you in his or her will. Then again, maybe your loved one told you certain things before he or she died, and you were surprised to learn that you were, in fact, not mentioned in the last will and testament.

You might have multiple siblings who disagree with you about your parent's or grandparent's will. Just because you do not happen to like what a person's final will states does not necessarily mean you have grounds to contest it in court.

Signature issues that may constitute invalidation of a will

While each state has its own laws regarding the estate planning process, every state has regulations governing the signing of a last will and testament. A person must be of sound mind when he or she executes and signs a will. If you have reason to believe your loved one wasn't, you may challenge the will in court.

A testator (person signing a will) must not be under duress when adding his or her signature to a will. You'll also want to research specific laws in Maryland regarding whether the signing of a will must be witnessed, and, if so, by how many people.

Additional issues that may be grounds for contesting a will

If you believe someone unduly influenced your loved one before he or she signed a will, it is definitely cause for concern. Such situations often prompt familial disputes that may lead to permanent relationship rifts if they cannot be resolved.

Fraud is another issue that may prompt a probate judge to rule that a will is invalid. Did someone trick your loved one into signing or forge his or her signature on a document?

Where to seek support

If you know ahead of time that a family member is planning on naming you as a benefactor or heir in a last will and testament, it's a good idea to discuss the matter with the person to make sure you know all you need to know before the will is probated. If a legal problem arises, an attorney with probate administration experience can provide strong support.

While your instinct might be to confront a sibling, step-parent or other party who is involved in a probate dispute to try to handle things on your own, it is always better to take proper legal steps to resolve an issue.

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