If you have a family member or loved one die, you may be surprised or even shocked to find that their Will is very different from what you were expecting. Especially if you had seen a copy of the Will previously, but the Will being presented now is obviously a new, revised version.
In this case, people often suspect that an elderly parent may have been tricked or manipulated into signing a new Will by someone unscrupulous, or even by one of their own siblings trying to take advantage of a parent’s dementia for their own gain. It’s also not uncommon for the children from a first marriage to oppose a revised Will if they think it unfairly benefits the ‘wicked stepmother" that they have never liked.
Whatever the reason, if you believe the Will your loved one created is not valid and should be revoked by the court, what options do you have? This is one aspect of Contested Probate, and here’s how a Will can be challenged in Texas:
Four Legal Grounds for Challenging a Will
There are four legal reasons to challenge the validity of a Will in Texas.
- The Will wasn’t signed in accordance with Texas laws: In Texas, a Will must be signed by the person making the Will (the Testator) in the presence of two witnesses, preferably disinterested parties, meaning they are not people who will inherit anything under the Will.
- The person lacked testamentary capacity to sign a will: Did the person fully understand the nature and value of their assets? Did they have a true sense of who should logically inherit those assets? Did they understand the legal effect of signing a will? A person with dementia or other incapacity can be easily manipulated or confused on any of these points.
- The person was unduly influenced into signing a will: Elderly people are particularly susceptible to the influence of others, and it becomes undue influence when the influencer exerts so much pressure that the person making the Will loses the sense that they have any choice in the matter.
- The Will was created by fraud: A fraudulent Will is usually created when the person is tricked into signing a Will, often by being presented with a document that they are told is something else, such as a power of attorney or other legal documents.
Each of these scenarios can be difficult to prove because the best witness would be the person who made the Will, and that person is now deceased. It gets even more complicated if there is someone working against you on the other side who is not being honest and forthcoming about the situation. If you feel your loved one’s true wishes are not represented in their Will, contact a Probate Litigation attorney to discuss your options.