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What you need to know about contesting a will

Losing a loved one is hard enough, but it is worse when you believe someone took advantage of your loved one. Too often, older people fall victim to manipulative individuals that may coerce them into making decisions they would not normally make. Sometimes these decisions include revising their wills. Or maybe your loved one was suffering from an illness that prevented him or her from making sound decisions, like revising a will.

If you believe your loved one was taken advantage or are concerned about revisions to a will, you may be considering contesting the will. You certainly do not want to seem like a greedy person, but you are concerned that your loved one's best interests are not being represented. Contesting a will may be the best way to move forward. Here are some things you need to know about contesting a will.

When can a will be contested?

First, you will want to determine whether you have a valid reason for questioning the will. One reason a will may be considered invalid is if there are signatures missing. Missing signatures could imply that there was something amiss in the creation of the will.

Another reason to question a will is if your loved one was suffering dementia, Alzheimer's disease or another condition that called into question his or her ability to make sound decisions.

You may also suspect another party pressured or coerced your loved one into writing or revising his or her will. This could have resulted in the will favoring this party. This can be difficult to prove, but it is another reason a will can be contested.

A will could also have been fraudulently created by another party that is not your loved one. Or maybe that other party tricked your loved one into signing the fraudulent will. This is also a valid reason to question a will.

Who can contest a will?

If you have determined you have a valid reason to contest the will, you must also show that you are an interested party. An interested party is generally a child, spouse, close relative or someone else that is named in the will. You must have a financial stake in the will to be considered an interested party.

Some wills also include a "no contest clause," which usually state that anyone named in the will is to be removed from the will if they dispute it. However, these types of clauses are generally suspect, so an experienced attorney may be able to dispute this clause in court.

How long do you have to contest a will?

If you decide to move forward with contesting the will, you have a limited amount of time to do so in Texas. For general disputes, you have two years after the will has entered probate to contest the will. If you suspect fraud has occurred, there is not a specific time limit, but you certainly do not want to wait too long, or the process could become much more complex. There are other exceptions to the two-year limit, so you may want to reach out to an attorney if you have further questions about contesting a will.

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