A last will and testament should reflect the intentions of the person who made it. If you are fighting to protect the wishes of a family member or loved one after their death, you may be able to pursue legal action. West Palm Beach probate litigation lawyers Stephen J. Press and Jessica Mishali represent people to seeking to challenge the validity of a will or defend against such a challenge. He can assist you in evaluating your options as well as guide you through a will contest action.Will Contests in Florida
After a person dies in Florida, their property and assets will be distributed. If the decedent executed a valid will, the estate will be distributed according to its terms. Conversely, the validity of the will may be challenged if there are grounds to contest it. A will contest action is filed in probate court. Typically, the challenge must be made within 90 days of the notice of administration issued by the personal representative. In some situations, this period may be as short as 20 days of a formal notice, or extended longer if no notice was provided. Florida does not recognize no-contest provisions, and therefore, a beneficiary has no risk of disinheritance for an unsuccessful challenge. Some of the grounds for contesting a will are described below.Procedural Flaws
A will that was not properly executed may be declared invalid by a court. Under Florida law, there are several requirements to make a valid will. A person must be 18 years or older and of sound mind to execute a valid will. The will itself must be in writing and signed by the testator. In a rare exception, the will may be signed by someone acting at the direction of the testator. In addition, two qualified witnesses must sign the will in the presence of each other and the testator. If any one of these requirements is not met, the will contest is likely to succeed.Lack of Testamentary Capacity
A will must be executed when the testator is of sound mind and has the testamentary capacity to make a will. If the testator lacked testamentary capacity when the will was executed, it may be challenged. Testamentary capacity is the ability to understand the nature and value of one’s property and assets, the usual and natural progression of wealth to heirs and descendants, and the legal effect of a will. The capacity required to meet this standard is not high. For example, a testator showing signs of a mentally degenerative disease may execute a will during a period in which he has the capacity to understand the consequences of the legal document.Undue Influence
In a will contest action alleging undue influence, there are specific requirements to establish. The person alleged to have unduly influenced the testator must be a substantial beneficiary under the will, and that person must have had a confidential or co-dependent relationship with the testator. The person must also have actively procured the will. Evidence to prove the existence of these requirements may be introduced in a will contest action, and a skilled probate litigation attorney can help.Fraud
A will may be challenged for fraudulent inducement or fraud in the execution. Fraudulent inducement may occur when the testator distributed her estate based on the false statements or representations of another person. To establish fraudulent inducement, a petitioner must prove that this person made false and material representations to the testator, with the knowledge that the representations were false, and for the purpose of inducing the testator to act on the false information. The petitioner must also prove that these false representations caused injury or damages. Fraud in the execution of a will typically arises where the testator believes she is signing something other than a will, or believes that the will contains different provisions disposing of the estate.Consult a West Palm Beach Lawyer for a Will Contest
Attorneys Stephen J. Press and Jessica Mishali can provide legal advice regarding a will contest, probate proceedings, estate planning, and many other issues in West Palm Beach. We serve residents of Boca Raton, Boynton Beach, Coral Springs, Davie, Hollywood, Jupiter, Royal Palm Beach, Delray Beach, Wellington, Pembroke Pines, Hallandale Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Pompano Beach, Plantation, Hobe Sound, Indiantown, Stuart, Palm City, and Jensen Beach, as well as other areas of Broward, Palm Beach, and Martin Counties. Request a free consultation by contacting the Law Offices of Stephen J. Press at (888) 808-2772 or online.