How Can a Will Be Contested in Court?

A will is one of the most important legal documents you can have, as it determines to whom you would like your property and assets passed on to following your death. With that said, there are times when the distribution of that property and assets is not straightforward. There are various reasons that an individual’s will may be contested in court following their death.

How Can You Contest a Will in Court?

While the process of contesting a will in court varies from state to state, there are general circumstances under which the will can be called into question, including the following:

  • Lack of validity
  • Undue influence
  • Duress
  • Mental capacity
  • Fraud

Lack of Validity: What to Know

A person that is challenging a will can bring the claim that the will is not valid. This claim comes as a result of not following the proper steps while the will is created, such as not having it signed and/or witnessed (or not having enough witnesses).

Undue Influence: What to Know

A claim of undue influence results from allegations that the testator (the person who has made the will) was in a reduced mental capacity at the time the document was created, and was unfairly influenced by another individual into assigning property and/or assets in a way that went against the testator’s wishes.

Duress: What to Know

Another claim that can be raised to challenge a will is a claim that the will was created under duress. Similar to undue influence, a person can claim that the testator only created the will because he or she was being pressured by another individual to divide their assets and/or property in a certain way that did not align with the testator’s wishes.

Mental Capacity: What to Know

Lack of mental capacity can be claimed to dispute a will in court. Simply put, this is a claim that the testator was not of sound mind at the time the will was created.

Fraud: What to Know

Fraud occurs when a person lies to the testator and those lies subsequently result in the testator dividing their property and/or assets in a way that is not in accordance with their wishes.

Who Can Challenge a Will in Court?

As referenced above, specific state laws vary in regard to challenging a will in court. However, there are basic requirements that must be met in order to contest a will.

A will cannot be contested in court by just anyone. A person must have legal standing to contest the will.

To have legal standing, the person must be named in the will (or prove that he or she should have been) or would have stood to inherit property and/or assets should the testator had died intestate (without a will).

How Can You Avoid Having Your Will Contested?

There are some ways in which you can avoid having your will contested in court following your death. One such way is by inserting a no-contest clause. This is a provision that states if anyone contests your will following your passing, that individual becomes unable to inherit from your estate.

Creating a will is one of the most important things you can do in life. The document will provide instructions as to which people you want to inherit your property and assets following your death. If you do not create a will, the distribution of your property and assets will be decided by the court system.

For assistance creating a will or any other estate planning matters, contact us today. For more information about estate planning and elder law, view our resources page here.

Image by Moondance from Pixabay

About the Author

Alyssa Marie Monteleon, Esq.

Alyssa Marie Monteleon is an elder law and estate planning attorney at the Monteleon Law Group, PLLC with offices in New York and Virginia. For more information, please visit or call (914) 840-2529.

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