Grounds for Contesting a Will in Florida
Disposing of one’s money, property, and other assets after one’s death is not a task to be taken lightly. As such, the law imposes a strict set of requirements on individuals wishing to execute a will in order to minimize the chances that there will be errors when distributing the testator’s estate exactly as he or she wished. When those requirements are not met — or worse, when greed or jealousy draw the integrity of a will into question — a will contest may ensue.
Below, we’ll take a look at some of the most common grounds for contesting the validity of a will in Florida.
Lack of Valid Execution
There are five basic requirements all wills must meet in order to be considered valid. They are:
- The testator must be at least 18 years old
- The testator must be of sound mind (also known as “testamentary capacity”)
- The will must be in writing
- The testator must sign the will or direct someone else to sign it at the testator’s direction and in his or her presence
- The will must be signed in the presence of two witnesses, who must also sign it
If the testator failed to follow one or more of these formalities, a probate court may find that the will is invalid.
Lack of Capacity
Generally, testamentary capacity requires that the testator understand the nature and extent of the property to be disposed of, his or her relation to those who will benefit under the will, and the practical effect of the will as executed. If the testator lacked capacity at the time he or she executed a will, the will’s validity will be called into question.
Undue influence occurs when the testator’s free will was overpowered or manipulated by someone else, which caused him to dispose of property in a way that he would not have otherwise. It occurs most often in cases where the testator and the person exerting the influence share a “confidential relationship” in which the testator trusts in and relies heavily on the influencer.
Fraud and Forgery
A will that is procured by fraud is one that the testator is tricked into signing, usually as a result of being told that the will is a different, more innocuous, document. A forged will is one that is made without the testator’s knowledge and bears a forged signature. A will can also be forged when someone other than the testator edits or otherwise modifies the will without the testator’s knowledge or consent.
A will’s validity may also be attacked when an individual presents evidence that the will in question was revoked by a later will or codicil. A testator can revoke a will either in writing (i.e., by executing a subsequent will or codicil), or through action (i.e., by tearing, burning, obliterating, or otherwise destroying the will).
Contact a Boca Raton Probate Litigation Attorney
If you have doubts about the integrity or validity of a loved one’s will, you will need to take swift action to make your concerns heard. For more information about contesting the validity of a will in Florida, contact the Boca Raton probate litigation attorneys at the Ellis Law Group by contacting us online or calling 561-910-7500.