If you are involved in a dispute regarding the validity of a will, known as a "will contest," you want an experienced attorney to protect your rights. If you are an heir or potential heir challenging the will, you want a lawyer who understands the law and process, one who has successfully helped others in similar situations.
Houston Texas probate estate lawyer W. Timothy Weaver has successfully represented probate estate clients having will contest issues including a beneficiary challenging a will, lack of capacity, undue influence or improper will execution formalities.
Wills, trusts, property division, and estate administration are not always as straightforward as people would like them to be. Emotions can run high and tension can develop quickly among family members and friends, and the situation can be made much worse by a will that isn't particularly clear or contains an especially complex plan of division.
If confusion develops and people involved disagree on how to interpret the wishes of the deceased, each interested party has the right to contest the will or the conclusions legally drawn from it. It's important to note, should you be considering filing a will contest, that there are various time limits on when you can do so.
Most of the challenges to invalidate wills (will contests) are made by potential heirs or beneficiaries who got little or nothing in the will. Challenges to the validity of a will must be filed in probate court within a certain number of days after the person making the challenge receives notice of the application to probate or notice that the will has been admitted to probate.
Simply being unhappy about a will or disappointed isn't a good enough reason to challenge it. There must be a valid legal ground for the objection. The typical objections are:
The will was not properly drawn, signed, or witnessed, according to the formal requirements of Texas;
The decedent lacked mental capacity at the time the will was executed;
There was fraud or undue influence; or
The will was a forgery.
If the will is held invalid, the probate court may invalidate all provisions of the will or only the challenged portion. If the entire will is held invalid, generally the proceeds are distributed under the laws of intestacy (the laws that apply when there is no will).
A contest to a will must be filed within two years from the date the will is filed into probate and recorded (probated) by a judge and is considered valid. It is always better to file the will contest before the will is actually approved by the Judge as this will affect who has the initial burden of proof. Please consult your lawyer to find out all of your rights and remedies in will contest matters.