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How do you contest a will?

If your loved one has recently passed away, this can be a very trying time in terms of emotions. Unfortunately, it is also a time when family members must make numerous decisions and deal with legal processes for inheritances through probate. For some, this might mean the shock of discovering a will that seems out of character with the person who left it. While you can't usually successfully contest a will simply because you don't like its contents, you can contest a will if you believe the person who passed away would never have left such a document willingly.

If you are an heir or potential heir dealing with a will that doesn't seem to represent your loved one -- or presents information in direct contrast to wishes your loved one expressed in his or her later years -- then you might need to look into the source of the will. Wills can be legally contested on a number of grounds, and working with an estate law attorney can help you understand which grounds might be relevant in your case.

To contest a will legally, you usually have to show that the person did not sign the will of their own accord or in their own right mind. For example, if a person creates and executes a new will after he or she has developed severe dementia, the new will might not hold up in court. Likewise, if you can show a person was tricked into signing a will because he or she didn't know what it was, then this would be a case of fraud and the will would also not be upheld.

You might also be able to show that someone had undue influence over a person, causing him or her to make changes to a will the person otherwise would not have. Challenging a will can be difficult and involves numerous emotions outside of the legal process. A good estate lawyer helps you deal with the legalities quickly to reduce the stress and emotions that are involved.

Source: AARP, "Where There's a Will …," Nancy Mann Jackson, accessed July 08, 2016

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