Contesting a grant of probate can involve complex legal processes, and the motivations behind such challenges can vary. Statistics indicate that a significant percentage of probate disputes involve allegations that a person with influence over the deceased improperly manipulated them to change the will in their favor.
While the majority of probate cases proceed without contest, contested cases are not uncommon. As awareness about legal rights and estate planning grows, there is an increasing trend where people look for ways on how to contest probate.
In this article, we will talk about the most common grounds for contesting a grant of probate and how these will aid you in the proceedings to protect your interests.
Validity of the Will
When contesting a grant of probate, one of the primary aspects to examine is whether the Will in question is valid. There are elements that have to be thoroughly investigated to determine if any irregularities exist that could render the Will invalid.
This entails scrutinizing various factors such as:
- The testator’s mental capacity
- Their freedom from undue influence
- The proper execution of the Will
Gathering evidence, such as medical records or witness statements, can significantly strengthen your case. In the contesting process, it is recommended to consult with legal experts who specialize in probate matters to receive invaluable guidance and support.
Lack of Testamentary Capacity
Testamentary capacity, also known as “sound mind” or “disposing mind,” means that the person making the will must possess a certain level of mental capacity to create a valid will. The testator must understand the nature and extent of the property they are disposing of, the people benefiting from the will, and the general nature and purpose of the document.
If you strongly believe that the deceased didn’t have the mental capacity to make a valid will, it’s advisable to seek legal advice and potentially involve medical professionals to assess and provide evidence regarding the testator’s mental capacity at the relevant time.
To support your claim, you gather evidence such as medical records, witness statements, and expert opinions. You argue that at the time the will was made, the deceased was suffering from dementia or other mental illnesses that affected their ability to understand the nature and consequences of their decisions.
If you were to find yourself questioning whether someone unfairly influenced the deceased in order to gain an advantage in their will, that is known as undue influence, and it can be grounds for contesting a grant of probate.
Undue influence occurs when someone exerts pressure on the deceased to make decisions that they wouldn’t have otherwise made. Demonstrating this influence involves gathering evidence such as witness testimonies or documented conversations.
Keep in mind that proving undue influence can be challenging. It requires showing that the deceased’s free will was compromised, and if you can successfully prove undue influence, the grant of probate may be invalidated and the distribution of assets may be reconsidered.
Seek legal advice to understand the specific requirements and process for contesting on the grounds of undue influence.
Fraud or Forgery
If you suspect fraud or forgery in a will, you should gather any evidence that supports your claim and consult with a legal professional for guidance on contesting the validity of the document.
Fraud or forgery in a will occurs when someone intentionally deceives or alters a will for personal gain. This can include forging the signature of the testator, manipulating the contents of the will, or coercing the testator into signing a will against their wishes.
To prove fraud or forgery, you will need to collect any documents, witnesses, or other evidence that can demonstrate the deception or alteration. This evidence will be crucial in supporting your case and increasing your chances of successfully contesting the grant of probate.
Breach of Fiduciary Duty
A breach of fiduciary duty implies that the responsible party, the appointed executor or administrator, failed to act in the best interests of the estate’s beneficiaries.
As a fiduciary, they have a duty to act honestly, in good faith, and with loyalty towards the beneficiaries of the estate. Breaching this duty can include actions such as misappropriating funds, self-dealing, or making decisions that benefit themselves rather than the beneficiaries.
If a court finds merit in the allegations and determines a breach of fiduciary duty,
If you’re found to have breached your fiduciary duty, the court may remove them from their position, require them to repay any losses incurred, and even impose additional penalties. As a fiduciary, you have a high standard of care and must always prioritize the best interests of the beneficiaries.
Contesting a grant of probate based on a breach of fiduciary duty is a complex legal matter that requires careful examination of the alleged actions and their impact on the estate. It is highly advisable to receive legal advice and gather and present compelling evidence for a fair resolution in the best interests of the estate’s beneficiaries.
Contesting a grant of probate can be a complex process, and there are various grounds upon which it can be challenged. Whether it’s questioning the validity of the will or establishing a breach of fiduciary duty, these are all valid reasons to contest a grant of probate. It is highly recommended to consult with an experienced legal professional when dealing with this challenging and sensitive matter.