In dramatic movies, a will is read to grieving loved ones and passionate anger ensues when one person winds up disinherited. In reality, such situations are rare. But, if you believe your loved one’s will is unfair, you may want to pursue a will contest. However, there are a limited number of grounds upon which you can base your claim.
The will was not properly executed
All states, including Maryland, have standards by which a will must be executed. It must be signed in the presence of a certain number of witnesses and these witnesses must also sign the will. Even if a will was signed in a lawyer’s office, these formalities may not have been followed. If so, you may be able to contest the will.
Lack of testamentary capacity
When a person executes a will, they must be of sound mind, meaning they must have “testamentary capacity.” They must understand the extent of their estate, who their logical heirs are and the natural consequences of executing a will. Note that just because a person has dementia or some other type of mental impairment is not total proof that they lack testamentary capacity in certain situations.
Often, when a person grows old, they lean on others to have their basic needs met. Those helping them may be a caring family member or a professional caretaker.
However, if your loved one grows weak in their old age, they may be more susceptible to the influence of their caretakers. These caretakers can convince them to leave all of their assets to them, essentially disinheriting other potential heirs and depriving your loved one of their free will. This is known as “undue influence,” and it can be grounds for contesting a will.
Sometimes, an elderly loved one is tricked into signing a will. This is known as fraud. For example, a person may present your loved one with a document to sign that they say is one thing but actually is a will. Fraud is similar to lack of testamentary capacity, but even a person with testamentary capacity can be tricked into signing a fraudulent will.
Can you contest a will?
As you can see, there are a limited number of circumstances under which you can contest a will. Just because you do not like it is not enough of a reason to contest a will. But, if you can prove one of the above grounds for contesting a will, you may prevail in your will contest.