Who Can Contest a Will?
An individual’s last will and testament is the primary document on which a probate procedure is based. While there are ways to pre-emptively avoid probate through the use of smart estate planning techniques, wills in Texas and other states can be subject to probate – a process by which the court determines how the estate is to be settled appropriately.
The overall purpose of probate is to confirm the will’s validity and to interpret/carry out the decedent’s directions as written the will. The process will also transfer assets that have yet to be previously transferred by another legal instrument. In almost all cases, the executor of the will must submit the instrument for probate within four years of the decedent’s death.
If you wish to challenge or object to a will, a probate attorney in Dallas, TX, can help you answer the question, “Can I contest a will,” – as well as explain how Texas law determines the individuals that can contest a will, the established grounds or standing for contesting a will, and how to contest a will.
Note that how these aspects of the legal process are managed will determine the success rate of contesting a will.
Determining the Interested Party in a Will
A probate attorney in Dallas, TX, can help to determine if you have a standing (or are considered an “interested party”) you can contest a Texas will. An interested person is defined as someone who has a legal claim to the estate, and they could be considered —
- Beneficiaries: Those identified in a prior version of the will, or those who believe the decedent promised them something, may have grounds to contest a Texas will.
- Heirs/Devisees: A person who has been named as a recipient of a gift of real or personal property in a will. When a will is contested in Texas, a devisee may have an interest in the outcome of the contest because it could affect their inheritance.
- Close relatives: Those who would likely have received an inheritance had there been no will in place may have the ability to contest a will in certain circumstances.
- Creditors: Creditors who can verify they have outstanding debts with the decedent may have a right to contest the will as a means to recoup the debt.
- Executors: An executor may contest a will if there is reason to believe it does not reflect the wishes of the decedent.
An experienced probate litigation attorney can determine whether you have the required legal standing to contest a will being offered for probate in Texas.
Grounds To Contest a Texas Will
Disagreeing with the will is not sufficient reason enough to contest a will. This is because everyone has the right to bequeath their possessions to anyone they wish. So, a claim based on fairness without documentation holds no water or relevance in a Texas probate court.
However, valid legal contests to wills may include —
- Fraud: Fraud can happen in a number of ways, including forgery. For example, substituting a page in the will after it has been executed.
- Lack of Due Execution: This means that certain Texas statutory formalities were not met, for example, an unwitnessed document.
- Lack of Testamentary Capacity: Testamentary capacity refers to one’s capacity to make a valid will.
- Revocation by Physical Act: The original will was revoked by the testator. For example, it was destroyed by some physical act, such as tearing the will in half.
- Revocation by Subsequent Instrument: The original will has been revoked because the testator executed a more recent will or even an affidavit revoking the will.
- Undue Influence: The will may be challenged if the testator executes the will as a result of undue influence. For example, the testator was forced to sign the will.
Contesting a will in Texas can be a complex legal process, and there are several grounds on which a will may be challenged. Interested parties should consult with an experienced probate attorney to determine whether they have a valid claim and to navigate the probate process in Texas.
Protect Your Interest in a Will With a Probate Lawyer in Dallas
If you live or work in the greater Dallas area and are considering contesting a will, it is highly beneficial to consult with a leading and experienced probate lawyer in Dallas. Contact the Vermillion Law Firm LLC online or at 972-386-4560 for legal guidance regarding contesting a will or any other relevant or professional estate planning legal matter.