It is fairly rare for someone to contest a will during probate, but it does happen. Some of these challenges are based on legitimate evidence and concerns. Other times, the challenge comes from a child or other relative who is unhappy about being left out of the will and wants to disrupt the probate process.
There are several bases for challenging the validity of a will under Tennessee’s probate law. Here are three of the most common.
Lack of testamentary capacity
Testamentary capacity is a legal phrase that refers to a person’s ability to understand the terms of the will they are creating. The law requires that a testator (the person creating the will) have testamentary capacity and presumes that most adults have it. However, conditions such as senility, severe mental illness and intoxication can that capacity away. Often, a surviving relative will claim that the deceased person lacked testamentary capacity at the time their will was drawn up due to Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease or another illness that causes senility, especially if the person created or changed their will late in life.
Fraud, forgery and undue influence
These refer to situations where someone manipulated, tricked or intimidated the testator into making that person an heir. By exerting “undue influence,” the person took away the testator’s free will to decide how their assets should be distributed after they die. This can be done by isolating the testator from their relatives, convincing them that the manipulator is the only person who loves them, or using abuse or neglect. Unfortunately, many older and infirm individuals can be vulnerable to these types of influence.
A newer will exists
When a testator creates a new valid will, any old wills they previously drew can become void, but the testator’s intentions are not always clear. Hopefully, they will state in the new will that it voids the old will and date it to show that it was created later in time. Without clear evidence of the testator’s intentions, someone could challenge the validity of the will submitted to the probate court by claiming the older one is the valid version.
Dealing with a will dispute
Whether you are the executor of an estate or someone looking to challenge a will, you need experienced legal guidance. An attorney who practices probate and estate administration law can examine the evidence and help guide you toward an acceptable solution with as little delay and expense as possible.