Will Contests in Florida? Grounds, Legal Procedure, and Possible Outcomes
One cannot challenge or contest a Will simply because they do not like its contents. A Will is a legal document that specifies a deceased individual’s testamentary wishes outlining who should inherit his or her property after death. If someone would like to contest a decedent’s Will, you should speak to an experienced trusts and estate litigation attorney to assist you.
How Can You Contest a Will in Florida?
If there are disputes regarding the validity of the Will or doubts that the Will accurately reflects the testator’s wishes, a beneficiary, personal representative, or other interested party may contest the Will in Probate Court. A Will contest is a type of probate litigation in which one or several parties challenge the validity of the Will as a whole or in part.
Most Will contests in Florida are based on claims that some technical requirements were not met. For example, Florida law requires the testator to be “of sound mind” when creating a Will. If any interested party believes that the testator was not capable of making decisions when the Will was signed, they have a good basis to invalidate the Will.
Florida recognizes several grounds for contesting a Will:
- Technical or legal requirements were not met when creating or signing the Will
- The testator was subject to undue influence
- The testator was not of sound mind (incapacitated)
- The Will was not signed by the testator or another person under the testator’s direction
- The testator was subject to fraud or coercion when signing the Will
Any of these grounds require substantive evidence to contest a Will in Florida. If the Will contest is based on claims of fraud, undue influence, or coercion, you need help from a qualified expert who has a thorough understanding of the law and the facts of the case.
Legal Procedure for a Will Contest?
A Will contest is handled as an adversary proceeding within the probate court’s purview. The party who wishes to contest a Will needs to file a petition within the existing probate administration case (or open a probate administration to file a petition for Will contest). In the petition, the contesting party argues that the Will should be deemed invalid and state one of the grounds mentioned above.
If you believe there are sufficient grounds for a Will contest, you should be aware that there is a deadline to bring your case. Generally, any claims for a Will contest must be filed within 90 days of receiving a Notice of Administration of the probate administration. If the Notice of Administration was sent via formal notice, then the deadline is reduced to 20 days from receipt of the Formal Notice of the Notice of Administration.
Possible Outcomes for Contesting a Will
If you are successful in a Will contest, what then happens to the decedent’s assets? If the decedent had executed a previous Will, then that previous Will may be reinstated as the current Will of the decedent. If the decedent had no previous Will, then we may look to the Florida intestacy statutes to determine the current “heirs at law” of the decedent, and the current beneficiaries.