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When can I contest a will?

As we discussed in a recent post, three children of country music legend Glen Campbell filed a lawsuit to invalidate the singer's two most recent wills. Their claim was, essentially, that their father was not of sound mind due to Alzheimer's disease when he drafted the wills.

The first will in 2001 and the second in 2006 both served to disinherit the three litigants, leaving the entire estate to his current widow and five other children. This case brings up two questions: Is it possible to successfully challenge a will like this, and when can potential heirs invalidate a will?

If potential heirs stand to benefit from the estate under state intestacy laws in the absence of a will, under a prior will or under a subsequent will, then a court may agree to hear a viable attempt by the potential heirs to contest the will. Whether the litigants will be successful, however, depends on the strength of their arguments.

Here are several reasons why a Tennessee court might invalidate a will:

A lack of testamentary capacity: As in the case of Glen Campbell's estate, claiming a lack of testamentary capacity relates to the will signer's lack of understanding of the document due to mental incapacity, lack of understanding of the terms or underage status when signing the will.

Undue influence, fraud and forgery: This happens when someone used their influence over the will signer to manipulate them into disinheriting certain heirs so that the manipulator inherits the assets. This circumstance could also happen through fraud.

A newer will should be followed: Sometimes a new, later-dated and legally valid will is discovered. The courts will usually honor the most recently drafted and legally executed will that pertains to an estate.

There are other reasons to invalidate a will, but these are some of the most common. If you feel that a will that pertains to your deceased loved one needs to be invalidated, learn more about your options under Tennessee probate law.

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