© 2013 Robert L. Shepard, Professional Law Corporation
How can I challenge the validity of another’s Estate Plan?
There are a few basic ways for challenging any particular document, but they generally fall into three categories: a) lack of capacity – meaning you did not have a mental capability to make the will in the first place, b) undue influence – meaning the estate plan is a reflection of another person’s wishes, not yours, and finally 3) fraud – meaning someone tricked you into executing the estate plan.
1. Lack of Testamentary Capacity: Testator must be over the age of 18, understand the nature and extent of his property, the nature and objects of his bounty, and the nature of the disposition he is making. If the testator has a conception of reality that has no real foundation, to which the testator adheres, and no rational person could have reached the same conclusion as the testator, then the testator is said to suffer from an insane delusion. The party making the claim of insane delusion has the burden of proof, and must show the insane delusion caused the actual disposition. A successful challenge on the grounds of lack of testamentary capacity can void whole or part of the will.
2. Undue Influence is defined as a mental or physical coercion that deprives the testator of his “free agency,” causing him to substitute another persons will for his own, can void whole or part of the will. Undue influence requires that the testator be susceptible to influence, the other person had the opportunity to influence, the other person be disposed to influence, and provisions of the will are irregular. A presumption of undue influence arises if the beneficiary was in a confidential relationship with the testator, the beneficiary participated in the execution of the will, and the provisions appear irregular.
3. Fraud is defined as an intentional perversion of the truth for the purpose of inducing another in reliance on it to part with some valuable thing belonging to him or to surrender a legal right. Any gift resulting from fraud is invalid. Fraud must be produced by the beneficiary and only that beneficiary’s interest will be invalidated, meaning the other provisions in the will or trust will remain valid and enforceable.