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How To Contest a Will in Texas

There are certain rules and conditions that must be followed if you want to contest a will in Texas. Here’s what you need to know.

How to contest a will texas

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:

Lack of Testamentary Capacity

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:

  • The testator didn't know they were signing a will;
  • They did not comprehend what property they were willing away;
  • They didn't understand who would receive the property;
  • The signing went against the testator's wishes and interests;

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.

Undue Influence

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.

Due Execution

For a will to be valid in Texas, it has to be:

  • In writing and available as a physical copy;
  • Signed by the testator;
  • Must be signed by at least two credible witnesses who are at least 14 years of age and who signed the document in their own handwriting in the creator's presence.

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.

Fraud or Forgery

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.

Who Can Contest a Will in Texas?

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:

  • Beneficiaries named in the will;
  • Fiduciaries named in the will (they represent entities like banks or charities);
  • An intestate heir (a person eligible to inherit the estate when there is no will);
  • Heirs at law, referring to those who are technically legally eligible to an inheritance—such as a spouse or children—but have been left out of the will or are set to receive less than they would as an intestate heir.

Talk To an Experienced Expert

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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