If you doubt the validity of a will, there are a few things you can do. You can file a petition with the court to have the will probated, or you can file an objection to the probate.
If you have grounds to believe that the will is invalid, the court will investigate your claims and make a ruling.
What is a Will?
A will is a legal document that outlines your wishes for how your property and assets will be distributed after your death. It is important to have a will in place so that your loved ones can easily follow your wishes.
If you do not have a will, the court will decide how to distribute your assets based on the intestacy laws, which may not be in accordance with what you want. It may also trigger more tax for larger estates. Having a will in place may even help you reduce the amount of tax that is paid by your estate.
What Makes a Will Valid?
There are a few requirements that must be met in order for a will to be considered valid. If any of the requirements are not met, then the will is not considered valid and cannot be used to distribute a person’s assets after their death.
First, the will must be in writing. It cannot be verbal or a video will.
Second, the person creating the will (known as the “testator”) must sign the will in the presence of two credible witnesses who are at least 14 years old. This may or may not include a self-proving affidavit, which is common in Texas.
Last, the witnesses must also sign the will in the presence of the testator. The testator has to see the witnesses sign the document.
Who May Execute a Will?
Under the rules and limitations prescribed by law, a person of sound mind has the right and power to make a will, if, at the time the will is made, the person:
(1) is 18 years of age or older;
(2) is or has been married; or
(3) is a member of the armed forces of the United States.
What if I Don’t Believe the Will is Valid?
First, you can talk to the person who wrote the will to see if they have any concerns about its validity. If the person who wrote the will is deceased, you can talk to their lawyer or the executor of their estate. You can also look at the will itself to see if there are any suspicious circumstances surrounding its creation, such as if it was not properly witnessed or if it appears to have been forged. Finally, you can contact a lawyer or other legal professional to get their opinion on the matter.
If you still believe that the will is not valid, you can contest it in court. To do this, you will need to file a lawsuit against the executor of the estate and present evidence to the court that the will is not valid.
Reasons to Contest a Will
It is common for a valid will to be contested, even though it meets the legal requirements for validity. The most common grounds for contesting a valid will in Texas include:
- Lack of testamentary capacity
- Undue influence
Each has its own nuances and challenges, as explained below.
Lack of Testamentary Capacity
The term “lack of testamentary capacity” pertains to the situation when the testator lacked the mental capacity to comprehend the extent and value of their property or identify the beneficiaries of their will when it was signed.
In order to prove a lack of testamentary capacity, the person contesting the will must show that the testator was suffering from a mental disorder or was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time the will was executed.
Undue influence refers to a situation where an individual uses their position of power or trust to manipulate or pressure a testator to make decisions they would not have made on their own. This can lead to changes in the testator’s will that benefit the influencer at the expense of other beneficiaries.
To prove undue influence, it must be shown that the influencer had a relationship of trust and confidence with the testator, and that they used that relationship to manipulate the testator’s decisions regarding their will.
Fraud or Forgery
Fraud or Forgery are illegal activities that involve altering, falsifying, or manipulating a will intending to deceive or defraud others. If this happens, the probate court may declare the will invalid, which can cause significant legal and financial complications.
To prove fraud or forgery, it must be shown that the will wasn’t executed by the testator or the testator’s signature was forged.
Time Limit for Contesting a Will
In Texas, a person has two years from the date that the will was admitted to probate to contest it. This time limit is known as the statute of limitations. If the will has not been admitted to probate, the time limit would be from the date of death.
If a will contest is not filed within the two-year period, the court will not consider the challenge. The executor will be able to proceed with the distribution of assets according to the terms of the will.
Contesting Before and After Probate
Will contests in Texas probate courts can be filed before or after a will is admitted to probate.
To contest a will before it’s admitted to probate, a petition must be filed with the probate court asking them to determine the validity of the will. This is known as a caveat proceeding. The purpose of a caveat proceeding is to prevent the will from being admitted to probate until the court reviews its validity.
To contest a will after probate, a lawsuit that challenges the validity of the will must be filed against the executor or personal representative of the estate. Then, the court will determine if the will is valid and should be given effect.
In either case, the probate court will hold a hearing to consider the evidence and testimony presented by both sides and make a decision on the validity of the will.
Conclusion: The Decedent’s Estate
If you disagree with a will, there are several options. You can file an objection to contest the will in court, hire a lawyer for representation, or negotiate with the executor of the estate. If you think it’s worth contesting, it might be time to explore your legal options.
If you don’t believe that a will is valid, there are a few things you can do. You can file an opposition with the court, hire an attorney to represent you or try to negotiate with the executor of the estate. If you have valid grounds for believing that the will is not valid, then it’s worth taking one of these steps. However, if you don’t have strong evidence to support your claim, then it might not be worth pursuing. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide whether or not challenging a will is worth your time and energy.
1. What are the grounds for proving a will invalid in Texas?
Under Texas law, there are several possible grounds for proving a will invalid, including lack of capacity, undue influence, fraud, mistake, and improper execution.
2. Who can challenge the validity of a will in Texas?
Generally, anyone who has a legal interest in the outcome of the will can challenge its validity, including family members, beneficiaries, and creditors.
3. What is the process for challenging the validity of a will in Texas?
The process for challenging a will in Texas involves filing a lawsuit in the probate court, providing evidence of the grounds for invalidity, and convincing a judge to set aside the will.
4. How can I prove that the testator lacked capacity in Texas?
To prove that the testator lacked capacity, you must show that they did not have the mental ability to understand the nature and consequences of their actions when they executed the will.
5. What is undue influence, and how can I prove it in Texas?
Undue influence occurs when someone exerts pressure or control over the testator to the point where they are no longer acting of their own free will. To prove undue influence, you must show that the influencer had a position of trust and used that position to manipulate the testator’s decisions.
6. Can I challenge a will in Texas after it has been admitted to probate?
Yes, you can challenge a will in Texas after it has been admitted to probate, but the burden shifts to you as the contestant rather than the party who intends to probate the will.