Challenging or contesting the validity of a will is not an easy thing to do in the State of Florida because the courts view a will as the last wishes and voice of the decedent.
Anyone who may have something to gain from the estate has a right to contest a will, but they must have the grounds to do so.
A person may challenge the validity of a will based on one or more of the following criteria:
– Lack of testamentary capacity: A person must have testamentary capacity at the time they signed their will. This is one of the reasons that witnesses are required on wills in Florida. If the person suffers from senility or dementia, or was on a mind-altering substance at the time of the signature, then the will can be deemed invalid. “At the time of signature” is of the utmost importance in this scenario. A person who suffers from dementia may have periods of lucidity, during which their singing of a will may be deemed valid. Minors automatically have a lack of testamentary capacity because they are not legally able to sign contracts.
– Fraud, forgery, or undue influence: Just as with contract law, if the document has be fraudulently created or is a forgery, then it is illegal and may be held invalid by a Florida court of law. Additionally, if the decedent signed a will under undue influence, then it may also be deemed invalid by a court of law. There are certain burdens that one must overcome to prove these circumstances.
– New Trumps Old: If there is a newer, valid will than the one going through the probate process, then the new will trumps the current will. This is why dates on wills are so important. There may be members of your family who have different copies of the decedent’s will. If a person has been cut out of a will, then they may be holding onto an older copy in hopes of maintaining their benefit of the estate.
– Validity: In Florida, the will must be signed by two witnesses. If the will is not considered valid according to Florida state law, then you have grounds to contest it.
If you think you have grounds to contest a will currently going through probate, then you should contact a probate attorney to discuss your rights.