Not every estate administration goes smoothly after a person passes away. Even if the decedent worked with an estate planning attorney to create a clear, comprehensive plan to dispose of his or her possessions, there could be a challenge from someone who feels that he or she was wrongfully excluded from the will or trust.
Florida law generally gives great deference to written wills, and it can be difficult to successfully challenge a will in probate court. However, it is possible. Generally, the person challenging the will must show that it does not reflect the decedent’s intentions for some reason. Valid grounds for setting aside a will include:
- Undue influence. As they age, many people’s mental and physical condition deteriorates, possibly leaving them vulnerable to extreme pressure from someone else to change their will.
- Duress or incompetence. If the decedent was suffering from dementia, mental illness or otherwise was unable to think clearly, the will may be invalidated.
- Fraud. A testator (the person drawing up the will) can sometimes be tricked into changing his or her will, or into signing a document without realizing that it is a will.
- Improper execution. A will that was not properly signed, witnessed and executed may not survive a probate challenge.
A will contest can be complex, not to mention the fact that it sometimes pits family members against each other. Someone who wishes to challenge the terms of a will, or wants to uphold it, will likely need a probate attorney to help argue his or her case.