Probate & Trust Litigation Local Knowledge and Familiarity Is Invaluable in Every Small Town

Contesting a Will

Panama City Probate Litigation Attorney

It is not uncommon for surviving family members and beneficiaries to have concerns about a will's validity, particularly if they believe that the testator, or individual who created the will, was unable to voice his or her own intentions. In these cases, those concerned can pursue will contests. Unfortunately, mixing family members and money does not always lead to the happiest of endings. The work of an estate planning attorney is often rewarding, but protecting my clients from unnecessary litigation remains a high priority. While litigation can often be prevented by taking precautionary measures, not all litigation can be avoided.

When litigation arises regarding an estate plan, it usually takes one of two forms. It may be a challenge to the estate planning document itself such as whether a will should be admitted to probate, or it can have to do with the administration of an estate; for example, a beneficiary may argue that a personal representative has breached their fiduciary duty.

Will contests usually hinge on the contention that the testator was not in a legal or mental state to draft a valid will, was the subject of undue influence or fraud, or was operating under insane delusion. In most jurisdictions the party who contests the will is called the "contestant." A person only has legal standing to contest a will if he or she is an interested party, meaning someone who has a direct economic interest in the estate and would be adversely affected if the will was admitted to probate.

At the time the will is offered to probate, the person offering the will to probate has the burden of proving the will was executed properly. However, if a challenge to the will's execution is made after the will is been admitted to probate, the burden of proof shifts to the contestants.

The legal remedy for the dissatisfaction of a will is a will contest, in which case the contestants attempt to discredit the will on any number of grounds including:

  • Lack of testamentary capacity
  • Insane delusion
  • Duress
  • Fraud
  • Undue influence

A will may be challenged in whole or in part. A will contest may result in invalidity of the entire last will and testament, resulting in intestacy or the reinstatement of an earlier will. It may result in the invalidity of a clause or gift, or the diminution of certain gifts resulting in an increase in others.

Contact McCord, P.A. for Competent Representation

While I strive to avoid probate litigation, not all litigation can be avoided or is bad. There are times when all efforts of diplomacy have failed and it becomes necessary to protect the innocent who has been wronged. Whether you are a beneficiary or a personal representative, you need your situation handled by a professional Panama City probate lawyer in an ethical and conscientious manner who will communicate well to all who are involved.

Facing a will contest? Contact me, Max W. McCord III, Attorney at Law for the professional legal representation your situation demands!