The loss of a loved one is difficult enough to manage without additional problems. If you also become suspicious about the terms of the Last Will and Testament purportedly left by your loved one, it makes dealing with your loss considerably more difficult. You may be entitled to challenge the validity of the Will by pursuing a Will contest; however, should you do that? To help you decide how to proceed, the Coral Gables estate planning attorneys at Stivers Law discuss what you need to know about contesting a Will in Florida.
What Is a Will Contest?
A Will contest, in legal terms, challenges the validity of the Last Will and Testament left behind by your loved one. While you undoubtedly feel there is a reason to challenge the Will, you need to make sure you meet the legal requirements to contest the Will which includes having valid legal grounds on which the Will could be declared invalid. The fact that you are unhappy about your inheritance, or lack of inheritance, cannot be the basis for invalidating the Will. Consulting with an experienced estate planning attorney is the best way to ensure that you meet all the legal requirements necessary to pursue a Will contest in Florida.
Do You Have Standing to Contest a Will in Florida?
To bring a legal action challenging the validity of a Last Will and Testament in the State of Florida you must have “standing,” which is a legal term effectively meaning the right to bring the lawsuit. To have standing, you must be an “interested person.” This typically refers to any of the following people:
- Beneficiary under the Will submitted to probate
- Beneficiary under a prior Will
- Legal heir to the estate
- Creditor of the estate
Is It Too Late to Contest the Will?
A challenge to the validity of a Will must be filed within the time frame allotted by law in the State of Florida. The time allotted by law to contest a Will in Florida is relatively short. Typically, you must initiate a Will contest within 90 days after the Notice of Administration has been provided by the Personal Representative, or within 20 days if Formal Notice of the probate proceeding is received before the Will has been admitted to probate.
Do You Have Grounds for Contesting a Will in Florida?
You must allege (and ultimately prove to be successful) legal grounds on which the Will could be declared invalid to file a Will contest. In the State of Florida, those grounds include:
- Lack of Testamentary Capacity. Proving lack of testamentary capacity requires you to prove that the Testator lacked the necessary mental competency to make a Will, meaning that the Testator did not understand the nature of his/her assets and/or did not understand the people to whom the assets were going to be distributed.
- Undue Influence. Involves a situation where a Testator is compelled or coerced to execute a Will by applying improper pressure or persuasion. Usually, this is done by someone in a position of trust close to the Testator, such as a family member, caregiver, or even healthcare worker.
- Insane Delusion. Refers to a situation when a Testator, against all evidence to the contrary, believes something that is not true, and creates or changes a Will based on the insane delusion.
- Fraud. This applies if someone caused the Testator to make or change a Will based on false information or untrue misrepresentations.
- Lack of Proper Formalities. To be valid, a Will must be properly executed. If the Will was not properly executed, it may be invalidated. A common example is failing to have witnesses when the Will is signed.
Contact Coral Gables Estate Planning Attorneys
For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE webinar. If you have additional questions or concerns about contesting a Will in Florida, contact the experienced Coral Gables estate planning attorneys at Stivers Law by calling (305) 456-3255 to schedule an appointment.