Contesting a Will in Pennsylvania
People often times embrace the administration of a will for the closure and peace of mind it offers them. This feeling of relief can be even more pronounced if there was conflict regarding the estate leading up to its administration. At Donze & Donze, in Kennett Square and Media, Pennsylvania, we are deeply committed to assisting our clients and their loved ones resolve any estate litigation issues that arise. We strive to do this quickly and effectively while taking into account the emotional issues surrounding the dispute. All avenues of legal recourse are examined in an effort to reduce the amount of stress placed on the family.
People who have lost a loved one and are (or feel they should be) beneficiaries to the deceased person’s estate, can challenge the will in Pennsylvania courts. People choose to dispute a will for very specific reasons, which are explained in detail below. These are not the only possible reasons for contesting a will however.
At Donze & Donze, we have extensive experience handling will contests. We are aware of the emotional and financial issues surrounding a will contest and are here to provide the help you need. If you are considering disputing a family member’s will, call the Southeastern Pennsylvania Will Contest Lawyers of Donze & Donze at (610) 444-8018. You can also email Donze & Donze here.
Legal Grounds For Contesting a Will
In order to legally contest a will in Pennsylvania, the author of the will has to have passed away. A will is not in effect until the person who wrote the will, also known as the testator, dies. Beneficiaries and others who claim to be heirs have no legal “say” in the matter as long as the testator is alive. Once the testator has died there are several different grounds for contesting a will.
Reasons For Contesting a Will
Duress is when a person acts against their normal nature in response to the improper actions of another. This is sometimes done by threat of violence. An adult son or daughter threatening an elderly parent with violence unless the will is rewritten and the entire estate is left to them is an example of a will being written under duress. A will written and/or executed under duress is invalid.
Undue influence is very similar to duress in that it reflects the wrongdoer’s intent and best interest and not the testator’s intentions. The primary difference is that undue influence pertains more to manipulation and control rather than outright threats. Psychological domination is a very common method of undue influence.
A forged or fraudulent will is fake. It is legally invalid as it was not written or executed by the deceased person. It is not uncommon for an heir or beneficiary to forge or falsify a will. Other times, an interested third party can create a fraudulent will that benefits themselves, an heir or beneficiary.
Lack of Testamentary Capacity
If the person is mentally incompetent at the time of writing or executing a will, the will should be considered invalid from a legal standpoint. There is a set of criteria that must be met to be considered competent to write, sign & execute a will. Initially it must be determined that a person has sufficient mental faculties to understand what a will is. They must also be able to grasp what their property, assets or possessions consist of. In addition, they must also acknowledge who their family members are and what property or assets they wish to leave to each of them in the will. Lack of Testamentary Capacity is one of the most common reasons a will is contested by heirs or beneficiaries.
Revocation or Suppression
A will that is not the most current version of the testator’s desires is invalid and should be contested as such. Someone with a fair amount of real property or assets to leave to heirs or beneficiaries often will execute multiple version of their will over the course of a lifetime. A superseded will is an early version of a current will. Outdated wills can be disputed easily if a current version is provided. If more than one will is written the will written closest to the date of death will be considered valid.
Matters Regarding a Will Contest
Individuals and or multiple family members can legally contest a will for numerous reasons. This is both in terms of contesting the will as well as defending them and can involve the following:
Undue Influence Allegations
Improper Will Amendments
Wills Lacking Necessary Witness Signatures or Other Formalities
Questions Surrounding Mental State of Will Creator at Time WIll Was Drafted
Other Situations Resulting in Will Contests/Disputes
Contact Our West Chester Estate Planning Lawyers
Please feel free to contact our West Chester lawyers handling all issues related to wills, will contests and estate planning. They offer free consultations. Dial (610) 444-8018 today.
We proudly serve those with estate planning needs the entire Chester County, Pennsylvania area including Avondale, Avon Grove, Berwyn, Chester, Chester Spring, Coatesville, Devon, Downington, Elverson, Malvern, New London, Oxford, Paoli, Phoenixville, Union, West Chester, Pennsylvania.