Contesting a Will in Florida
When a loved one dies, surviving family members and friends can be overwhelmed with grief. At the same time, they are often required to deal with a number of matters, including funeral and burial arrangements, life insurance, and estate administration. Dealing with estate administration for a loved one can be difficult under the best of circumstances, but it can become an even more difficult challenge when there are questions about the validity of the will.
Contesting a Will
If someone has concerns about the validity of a loved one’s will, he or she may consider contesting, or challenging, the validity of the will. Will contests are cases that are brought before the probate court and that assert that a will is invalid. After a hearing, the judge may rule the entire will valid, or he or she may declare that all or part of the will is invalid.
Grounds for Contesting a Will
There are several grounds for contesting a will. Particularly for those whose loved ones’ created their wills when they were older, many concerns involve capacity, fraud, and the improper influence of others.
- Lack of Execution Formalities: Florida law requires wills to contain certain information in order to be valid. Specifically, Florida law requires wills to be signed by the testator, who is the person who is executing the will. The will must also be witnessed and signed by two people. If the testator has failed to comply with these requirements, it is possible to challenge the validity of the will.
- Lack of Testamentary Capacity: Florida law requires testators to be “of sound mind” when they execute their will. Those with a family member who was elderly when his or her will was executed may be concerned that he or she did not have the capacity to execute their will – that he or she either did not have the ability to understand the scope of his or her assets and property or to understand how the will was distributing those assets.
- Fraud and Duress: Under Florida law, wills procured by fraud and duress are void. Fraud can include such situations as having a testator sign a document that he or she does not know is a will, or having him or her sign the will but providing misleading information about what is contained in the will. Duress can include verbal or physical threats or coercion with the purpose of encouraging a testator to include or exclude certain things in his or her will.
- Undue Influence: Florida law also allows for wills procured by undue influence to be void. Undue influence occurs when a party in a confidential relationship with the testator uses influence and pressure to affect the will. In such situations the testator is no longer acting voluntarily, but is instead acting because of the party’s undue influence.
When there are concerns about a loved one’s will, it can be difficult to identify the exact ground upon which the will may be invalid. Many of the grounds share aspects; someone who lacks capacity and understanding to execute a will may be more susceptible to fraud and duress. That person may likewise be more susceptible to undue influence. Undue influence may also involve a measure of fraud or duress on the part of the person who exercised improper influence.
If you have questions or concerns about the validity of a will, it is important to work with an attorney to review your case, understand your rights, and defend your interests. Contact the experienced Florida attorneys at Carnal & Mansfield, P.A. for a consultation today.