Did you just find out that you were not included as a beneficiary in a Will or do you feel like you didn’t get as much as you deserve from a certain benefactor? Well, we are sorry to hear that, but that is not what this post is about. We often talk about the processes involved in writing a Will to keep you well informed, but if you notice something is off in a Will you are supposed to be a beneficiary in, what then do you do?
There are times when the content of a Will did not go the way you expected, for example, your Dad gives 80% of his estate to charity and 20% to you and your siblings to share; that’s absurd, right? No, that was his wish for how he wanted his estate to be distributed. You need to realise you can’t just contest a Will simply because you don’t like how the benefactor shared his estate, as long as the Will was well documented and there was no wrongdoing, the content of the Will stands.
You may be wondering, “Under what circumstances do I then contest a Will?” before we get into that, it is important for you to know that contesting a Will is very difficult and you will need to have sufficient evidence to prove your case on why you want a Will to be disregarded by a court. Now that we have gotten that out of the way, let’s go straight into answering your question. The following 3 reasons are grounds for you to contest a Will:
1. The testator lacked testamentary capacity:
In this case, you can contest a Will if the testator lacked the legal and mental ability to make or alter a valid Will. For an individual to contest on this ground, you have to prove at least one of the following:
a. The testator did not understand the nature of the Will.
b. The testator was not well knowledgeable of the nature of his/her assets.
c. The testator was not mentally aware of his actions in regards to the distribution of his wealth to the stated beneficiaries.
d. The testator did not fulfil the legal requirements by law to have a Will written or a contract signed.
In order for you to use any of these grounds stated above as your claim, you will need to have evidence to prove it e.g. medical records, video recordings etc. As a Testator, always make sure you are always within the confines of the law and you are well aware of every decision you make in regards to the development of your Will, this ensures that it can be executed and wouldn’t be contested on this ground.
2. The Testator Was Unduly Influenced:
In a situation where the testator was pressured to take certain actions that influenced the development or modification of his/her Will as a result of circumstances like blackmail, death threats, physical endangerment, coercion etc. The Will can be contested and asked to be disregarded by a court of law because all Wills must be written freely without any undue influence from a third party. This is a major reason why it is important to write your Will without informing anyone, most especially the beneficiaries about its content to ensure no one with evil intentions plots against changing your desired wishes for your estate.
3. The Will Was Forged:
Yes, just like any document, a Will can be forged. When a Will differs from that which the Testator developed, then it can be regarded as forged Will. Forging a Will is not as easy as it sounds, however it does happen. Wills are often forged by family members, attorneys and caregivers. One of the most common ways of identifying a forged Will is when there are discrepancies in the signature on the Will from the actual signature of the testator. This is why it is essential for the testator to sign his/her Will in the presence of at least 2 Witnesses and use a reputable trust company like Leadway Capital and Trust to ensure his/her Will is safe and executed as instructed.
Just as earlier stated, using any of the reasons mentioned above to contest a Will can be extremely difficult to prove in a court of law, you must have the necessary evidence to prove your case beyond a reasonable doubt. However, as a testator, the best way to ensure your family members and loved ones do not have any reason to dispute the validity of your Will is by ensuring that your Will is properly written with all the necessary procedures being followed, the details of the Will is kept confidential and you employ the services of a reputable attorney or trust company in drafting the Will.