Wills often serve as the cornerstone of someone’s estate plan, providing clear instructions on how to distribute their property to family members, loved ones and even charitable causes after they die. However, sometimes family members question whether a will is truly valid or not.
In certain scenarios, the Florida probate courts hear claims from family members or beneficiaries who allege that a will is invalid. Their goal may be to have the courts throw out the document and either use a prior estate plan or treat the estate as though someone died without a will. These are the three main reasons that people contest wills in Florida.
1. Undue influence
Those who live with and take care of older adults don’t always act in their best interests. Spouses, children and even professional caregivers could lie to, manipulate or threaten someone so that they change their estate plan for their benefit. Especially when a testator makes drastic changes that seemingly only benefit a caregiver at the expense of other beneficiaries later in life, there may be questions as to whether those changes reflect their true wishes or the desires of the caregiver-turned-beneficiary.
2. A lack of testamentary capacity
Someone must be an adult and able to legally enter into an agreement to draft a valid and enforceable will. If family members can show that someone had a disabling medical condition or was already experiencing cognitive decline when they put together their estate plan, then the courts may agree that the documents are not enforceable due to their lack of capacity.
3. Illegal inclusions
There are terms that people might want to include in a will that would violate State law. An example might include disinheriting a spouse. In scenarios where someone’s will does not align with Florida probate laws, family members may be able to challenge the documents left behind by a testator and the theoretically unenforceable terms they included in their wills.
Concerns about fraud and technical issues with documents can potentially also lead to a will contest in Florida probate court. Seeking legal guidance when a circumstance may necessitate probate court involvement can benefit those helping administer an estate or hoping to inherit from one.