Mar 25, 2022
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While there may not be an inheritance tax in Texas, your estate may be subject to the federal estate tax...read on to find out more.
Questions about the basics of contesting a will in Texas are common among families whose loved ones left a poorly written will or one that was produced under questionable circumstances.
A will contest seeks to invalidate a deceased person's will. It can be a highly emotional procedure as an inconclusive or poorly written will may be a source of conflict among beneficiaries, including friends and family members.
As a beneficiary, you have certain rights: If you firmly believe the estate executor is not performing their duties, the will is invalid, or the deceased person did not correctly name the beneficiaries, you have the right to fight for a fair resolution.
The Texas Estate Codes stipulate that any interested party in a will contest can legally dispute the will's validity by filing a formal lawsuit. Under the mandate, an interested party up to two years to contest the will. In Texas, the clock usually starts running after the will has been admitted into probate.
Once an application has been filed to probate a will, the interested party files a “will contest” to challenge the will's validity by alleging various legal grounds for which the will should be admitted to probate.
Here are four reasons why a will can be challenged:
Testamentary capacity refers to an individual's legal ability to create or make changes to a valid will. It becomes an issue when an interested party claims that the person who wrote the will—the testator—didn't understand what was happening at the time.
The interested party may argue that:
It is then up to contesting parties to prove that the will would have been different had the will-maker been of sound mind. Some of the most common reasons why beneficiaries might argue for a testator’s lack of capacity is that they were suffering from dementia, a pronounced mental illness, or another medical issue.
As the name suggests, undue influence refers to a third party influencing the testator and inappropriately swaying their decision.
For interested parties who want to contest the will successfully under the grounds of undue influence in a probate court, they need to prove that someone pressured, manipulated, and coerced the testator into making changes to their will that overpowered their natural decision.
They also have to establish that the testator's will would have been different had they not been influenced. Undue influence is usually difficult to prove since the testator isn't available to answer questions.
For a will to be valid in Texas, it has to be:
If the will does not meet these requirements, it forms grounds to contest the will and deem it invalid. The lack of two or more credible witnesses for signatures are examples of skipped steps in the execution process.
If a beneficiary believes that the will submitted to the probate court is fake, or has been tampered with, then they have the right to contest the will. An inauthentic or tampered will is considered invalid and will be thrown out of court.
Not everyone can contest a will. Additionally, even those who can challenge it are subject to time constraints and grounds. To successfully contest a will, you need to have “standing.” You only have standing if you are an interested party, meaning that the result of the will contest will affect you.
Here are some entities that have standing:
If you wish to challenge a will's validity, it's advisable to do so immediately after the probate process begins. With an estate professional by your side, you'll be able to explore your options.
And if you’re a testator looking to avoid will contests from the very beginning, then proper estate planning is your friend. Book your free consultation with ClearEstate today to find out how we can help.
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