What is Will Contest?

A Will contest is a form of estate litigation and is a dispute or proceeding brought to challenge the validity of a Will. When an application to probate a Will is filed, any interested person with standing can file a Will contest to challenge the validity of that Will. Standing means that the individual involved is directly affected by the outcome of the proceeding.  

Can You Dispute a Will in Texas?

Yes, according to the Texas Estates Code, any individual interested in an estate may contest a Will. An interested person would be an heir, devisee, spouse, creditor, or any other person having a property right in or claim against the estate. The individual contesting the Will bears the burden of proof.

This means that the person contesting must prove that

1. He or she has the standing to contest the Will

2. The Will is invalid

What are the Grounds for Will Contest?

There are several grounds for a Will contest.

These include the following:

1. Undue Influence

2. Lack of Mental Capacity

3. Improper Execution

4. Fraud. 

1. Undue influence

Undue influence occurs when it is established that the Will was not voluntarily executed by the testator. 

In Texas, to prove undue influence, an individual must show:

1. The existence and exertion of an influence

2. That the influence subverted or overpowered the mind of the maker of the Will at the time of execution of the Will

3. The maker of the Will would not have executed the Will but for such influence. 

2. Lack of Mental Capacity

According to the Texas Estates Code, an individual must be “of sound mind” and have testamentary capacity to legally execute a Will. This means that, at the time of the execution of the Will, the individual must have had sufficient mental ability to:

  • Understand the business in which he or she was engaged (i.e., the making of a Will);
  • Understand the effect of his or her act in making the Will;
  • Understand the general nature and extent of his or her property; 
  • Recognize his or her next of kin and the natural objects of his or her bounty; and 
  • Gather in his or her mind the elements of the business to be transacted, hold these elements long enough to perceive their relation to each other, and be able to form a reasonable judgment as to them. 

On its own, an individual’s age or cognitive issues would not be enough to establish a lack of mental capacity. To prove that an individual lacked mental capacity, you must show that the individual was unable to carry out the above tasks at the time the Will was executed.

3. Not in Accordance with the Law

Under Texas law, to be valid, a Will must meet certain requirements. Because a Will is a legal document, it is subject to Texas laws and requirements in how it is created and executed. For Example, a Will that is not written or signed by the testator is invalid. You can challenge such a Will on the basis that it was improperly executed or not created and executed in accordance with the law. 

4. Fraud

Fraud is similar to undue influence and can occur when an individual is tricked into executing a Will that does not reflect that individual’s true wishes. Typically, this can occur when a person intentionally provides false information to the testator and the testator signs based on the information falsely provided. For example, if an individual tricks you into signing a Will by telling you it’s a birthday card, such Will would be invalid. 

When can a Will Contest be Filed? 

A Will contest case can be filed before or after a Will is admitted to probate. If the Will has already been admitted to probate, you must contest it within two years from the date the Will was admitted. 

We can Help with your Will Contest No Matter What County You Are In

Will contests are complex. If you suspect a Will is invalid and are considering contesting, contact us today to determine the following:

  1. If you have standing to contest the Will,

2. If there are repercussions in contesting (e.g., if the Will includes a no-contest clause and you are a beneficiary under the Will)

3. The potential grounds for contesting.

We can help you with all of that and even represent you in Court in your Will contest case.