Contesting A Will
The death of a cherished loved one is an emotional time for family and friends, and it is not uncommon for disputes to arise. One area that can be particularly troubling concerns how to handle their estate.
Those close to the person who passed may feel they are entitled to a portion of their estate, either for personal or financial reasons. While creating a will is a key element in ensuring final arrangements go smoothly, it is possible for a will to be contested.
Requirements for A Legal Will
Oftentimes, people are unaware of the legal requirements for drafting a will, or may attempt to save themselves time and money by using an online, do-it-yourself service. They may fail to account for all of their estate, or they may not be specific enough in detailing their beneficiaries. Unfortunately, in order for a will to hold up in court, it must be detailed, specific, and meet certain legal requirements. Under Florida probate laws, these requirements include:
- The person drafting the will must be at least 18 years old.
- They must be of sound mind, with the legal capacity to comprehend and understand what they are doing.
- The will itself must be in legible writing. It is not enough to simply convey your wishes to someone else.
- The person whose name the will is in must sign it at the end.
- The signing of the will must be in the presence of two witnesses, who are also required to sign.
- It must be signed in the presence of a notary.
This process for signing is known as executing your will. In Florida, as in most areas, a will must be properly drafted and executed to stand up in court.
Grounds for Contesting A Will
Even with a valid, properly drafted and executed will in place, it still must be approved by the Florida probate court. At any time after the will is read or during this process, others may come forward claiming inheritance rights to the deceased’s estate, or contesting the will’s validity and contents. Grounds for contesting a will include the following:
- The will was not properly drafted or executed;
- The deceased suffered a mental or physical condition that impaired their reasoning;
- The deceased was under threat or undue force and pressure when the will was made or signed;
- Acts of fraud, misrepresentation, or false statements were used in the drafting or executing of the will;
- A later will exists, which invalidates the previous document.
Even if the will is eventually declared to be valid, a will contest can tie up the matter for months, costing everyone involved time and money.
Our Florida Estate Planning Attorneys Can Help You
If you have questions about your will, inheritance rights, or other estate planning matters, contact Hancock & Associates, P.A. Our experienced Florida family law and probate attorney can advise you on your best course of action, while ensuring your rights and interests are protected.