A will is a vital part of any comprehensive estate plan. It is an essential legal document that sets down a person’s wishes for how their estate will be distributed upon death. The person who writes the will for their assets is called a testator.
A will can also serve critical administrative functions. For example, filing a will kicks off the estate administration process in the courts. The testator of a will can also use it to nominate the person entrusted to collect and distribute estate assets during the probate administration. This person chosen is known as the executor or representative of the estate.
Contesting a will means challenging its validity. The individual challenging the will is called the petitioner. Before embarking on this, you should know that it can make the probate process more complicated, time-consuming, and emotionally distressing— whether you are contesting or defending the validity of your loved one’s will. Whichever the case, you must have standing to take action and must prove that a challenge is warranted.
This article explains the grounds on which a court can invalidate a will.
Here are a few different ways to contest a will to be invalidated.
Age or Time of Execution
According to Illinois law, when a testator creates a will, they must be at least 18 years old. Therefore, if the testator made the will before they turned 18, you could contest it based on age.
Undue External Influence
You can challenge the validity of a will if you believe the testator is influenced or hindered from exercising free will in creating it. This is usually the case if there are direct beneficiaries or third parties who may profit by exerting undue influence on the testator.
Fraud or Forgery
Like the above, a person accused of fraud or forgery in wills is usually in a place of trust with the testator. However, it differs from undue influence because, here, a third party forces the testator to believe that the terms of the will vary from what the testator is signing.
Lack of Mental Capacity
You can contest a will on account of the mental capacity of the testator. For a will to be considered valid, the testator must be of sound mind at its creation.
Proving a lack of capacity is quite rigorous, and to contest on these grounds can be rather tedious. Below are the requirements
The petitioner must prove that the testator;
- did not know what a will does or that they were making one
- did not know who they would be expected to provide for, like a spouse or children
- did not understand what was owned in the estate and
- was unable to decide how to distribute the property.
If the petitioner can prove these four things, you can contest the will because the testator was found to not be of sound mind at the time of the will’s creation and signing.
According to Illinois law, the above subtopics are the legal loopholes to contesting a will. The process and timelines may differ depending on the situation, but with the proper guidance from expert attorneys, you can expect a smooth process.
If you need guidance and assistance, speak to an experienced probate attorney here.