Sometimes the last wishes of a loved one or family member outlined in their Will just don’t make sense to you, and you want to challenge the Will in court. My partner Bill Neal wrote another article recently about the legal grounds for challenging a Will in Texas, but I thought it would be helpful to add some information about WHO can challenge a Will, as well as WHEN a Will must be contested.
The laws on Will contests in Texas are fairly straightforward: A Will can be contested by any person who has even a remote interest in the estate in question. It might be someone who is not mentioned in the Will at all but believes they should have been – a “disinherited person.” It could also be the person who was provided for in the Will but believes he or she should have received a larger share of the estate – an “unhappy beneficiary.” It might even be someone who has no stake in the Will at all but just has concerns that the person who signed the Will was not of sound mind, or lacked “testamentary capacity” to make a valid Will – this could be a financial advisor, a caretaker, or almost any other third party.
When it comes to the timing of a contesting a Will in Texas, there are applicable statutes of limitation that could bar a Will contest if it is not filed timely once the Will is admitted to probate. Once a Will contest is filed, the filing freezes the continued administration of the estate until the contest is resolved.
Unfortunately, the person who files the Will contest carries the burden of providing the evidence to prove why the Will should be set aside. So, it’s important to have solid facts to back up your claims before you pursue a Will contest, and be sure that your feelings about the Will aren’t based purely on emotion or grief. It’s always a good idea to consult a qualified Probate attorney about your specific situation before taking any legal action; he or she can help you sort out facts from feelings and proceed logically with the best chance of prevailing on your Will contest. A good Probate attorney should also be able to tell you when you don’t really have a case so you don’t waste your time or money chasing something that just won’t work in court.