It happens all the time. A disgruntled relative was left out of a deceased individual's will or receives far less than they expected to get from the decedent's estate. They decide to try to right the perceived wrong and contest the will.
What are their chances of prevailing? As with most legal issues, it depends on the situation. But, under certain circumstances, it is indeed possible to legally challenge a will.
Who can contest a will?
Not just anyone can mount a will contest. To have legal standing to contest a will, an individual must have been in line to inherit property if the decedent had died intestate (without a will) or have been a beneficiary under a prior will. Intestate succession laws dictate who will inherit and the order of succession.
Also, one of four possible grounds for contesting a will must be met:
- Incapacity. Testators must have the mental capacity to write a will. If they suffered from dementia or other cognitive conditions that rendered them unable to understand the ramifications of what they are doing, the will could be invalidated.
- Undue influence. If you can prove that the deceased was coerced or tricked into including someone in their will or into disinheriting you, you could prevail in court.
- Fraud. Similar to undue influence, proving fraud can be a tough sell. One possible way is to show that the testator was duped into signing a will, e.g., perhaps they were lied to and told that they were signing off on a property deed or another legal document.
- Improper execution. Wills that don't conform to North Carolina state laws can be legally challenged.
What can you do?
If you want to challenge a relative's will or if someone is challenging a will under which you are a beneficiary, the first place to start is discussing the matter with a Goldsboro estate litigation attorney.