This is not how it works.
Contesting a will means applying to the appropriate court to have a will struck down as being invalid. You would have to prove your case with sufficient relevant evidence. No judge in the country is going to rubber-stamp your request just because that's what you want.
Though each case and each will is different, the general concepts behind contesting a will are the same everywhere. Each case falls within these general headings. They are:
- undue influence
- lack of mental capacity
- problems with the will document itself, such as improper witnessing, lack of signature, other formalities not observed.
You'll notice that I'm leaving aide the issues that lawyers usually refer to as "dependent relief". This refers to an application by a spouse or child to get a larger share of an estate under a valid will. The will itself would still stand, but the court is asked to give a larger portion of the estate to someone in the family.
In this post I'm talking about the ways in which someone hopes to bring the entire will crashing down.
A person relying on the concept of undue influence aims to show that the will should be struck down because the deceased had been forced or persuaded to make a will that wasn't really what he or she wanted. The idea is that the person getting the estate under this will wouldn't receive it had the deceased been left alone to do what he or she really wanted to do, and therefore shouldn't be allowed to receive it now.
Lack of mental capacity:
Mental capacity is an essential component of a valid will. A person making a will must understand what he or she owns, must have an appreciation of his or her obligations and must understand the nature and effect of making a will. Therefore, a will can be attacked on the basis that the deceased didn't really know what he or she was doing due to illness, injury, medications or other causes of confusion.
One thing that should leap out at you when you read about undue influence or lack of mental capacity is just how hard it would be to prove that either of these factors actually existed when the will was made.
How do you prove that the son receiving the lion's share of his mother's estate manipulated her into leaving it all to him? He will say that he was the one who helped Mom the most during the latter part of her life and that she left the estate to him out of gratitude. Then the battle will begin in earnest.
You may be absolutely positive that he influenced her. You may even think that "everyone knows" he manipulated her. But we're talking about a court of law, not a family dinner table. How do you prove it?
I'm not saying that these cases never succeed, because they do. They rely on a judge's interpretation of doctor's reports, witness testimony, family history, common sense and the law. They are tough cases that take a long time, a lot of money and infinitely thick skin to tolerate, but when the evidence exists, they succeed.
But I also believe there is an awful lot of blustering and threatening going on, carried out by those who have no real idea of just how hard it really is to successfully contest a will. Most people who talk about contesting a will change their minds once they realize what's involved.
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