What are the most common reasons families contest a will?

On Behalf of | Jun 4, 2024 | Probate

The Kentucky probate courts often help interpret the law and enforce estate planning documents. However, sometimes the probate courts have to do the exact opposite. They may need to set aside or invalidate estate planning paperwork because of issues with the documents.

Family members of someone who recently died and beneficiaries included in an estate plan may have reason to question the documents that someone drafted. In some scenarios, the probate courts might agree with the assertion that a will or other testamentary document is invalid and, therefore, unenforceable. Will contests are generally only possible in very specific and unusual circumstances, including the following.

Undue influence

An estate plan should include terms chosen by the testator. The documents declare what happens with their resources and what protections their dependents receive. If an outside party leveraged their relationship with the testator for personal gain, families may suspect that undue influence altered the terms of an estate plan. Contesting a will because of undue influence could help prevent someone from undermining the true wishes of the deceased individual.

A lack of testamentary capacity

Most adults have the legal ability to draft valid and binding contracts. However, people must be of sound mind to create legally-valid documents. Someone who has experienced cognitive decline or who has serious medical challenges, like Alzheimer’s disease, may lack the necessary capacity to draft a will. Proving that someone did not understand the documents they drafted could lead to the courts setting aside someone’s documents.

Inappropriate terms

Perhaps a testator seemingly forgot one family member. They failed to mention their youngest child but left an inheritance for their other progeny. Maybe someone included terms in an estate plan that technically violates state law. Family members can contest a will over mistakes or deviations from legal standards. If a will contest is successful, the courts may act as though someone died without a will or may refer to earlier versions of someone’s estate planning paperwork to distribute their assets.

Learning more about the most common grounds for contesting a will may help families recognize when there could be actionable issues with an estate plan. A will contest could help families honor the wishes of someone who has recently died.