Losing a family member or loved one is difficult, and finding out that you have been left out of a will while you are still going through the grieving process can be devastating.
You may be convinced that your family member could not possibly have intended to leave you out of the will or leave you with less of your anticipated inheritance. While you can challenge the terms of the will, you must allege specific grounds as to why you believe the will is invalid and prove these grounds in court.
The probate process
All wills in Georgia must typically go through the probate process. An executor oversees and distributes the assets in your family member’s estate according to the terms of their will, and pays off any taxes or debts.
The probate process can be time-consuming and complex, and the complications only increase when probate litigation is involved. Still, it is sometimes necessary.
There are some things you should know about what is involved in successfully challenging a will in Georgia.
Who can challenge a will?
Any interested party can contest the terms of a will. “Interested parties” are people who were named as beneficiaries in the will, named beneficiaries in a previous version of the will, or people who would be heirs if the deceased had died without a will.
However, if you challenge the will, you must assert grounds.
There are several common reasons that wills are contested, including:
- Lack of mental capacity
- Undue influence
You are probably familiar with the basic definition of fraud. You may believe that the will that is presented to probate court was fraudulently created and is not the true, authentic will your family member had drafted.
Lack of mental capacity
While you might believe that the terms of the will were validly created by your family member, you may sincerely believe that they were not in their right state of mind when they drafted the will and did not understand what they were doing.
Sometimes situations arise involving someone threatening or coercing someone else into changing the terms of their will. The terms are commonly changed to favor the person doing the threatening, while removing other people from the will. You can contest the terms of a will if you believe this is what happened.
Other common reasons to challenge a will include improper execution. Georgia has several requirements that must be met for a will to be legally valid. It must be in writing and signed by the testator and two competent witnesses.
Proving improper execution of a will can be easier than proving other grounds, since the will on its face could clearly be invalid, such as if there are no signatures.
The will is outdated
Finally, you may believe that the will that is submitted to probate is outdated and not a current version. You must produce a current, validly executed will to try to prove the other will is outdated.
Overall, you cannot contest the terms of a will simply because you do not like them. You must assert grounds such as these for it to be considered a proper challenge.
Once you establish the grounds, you begin the daunting process of proving your case in court. It is important to know how to properly present your evidence, so having professional guidance can help.