The law in the state of Washington1 requires any existing last will and testament to be filed w ith the courts. However, simply because a will is filed does not mean that the document will dictate the distribution of the estate. In some cases, family members or others may question the validity of the will for different reasons. The following are some examples of common will contests that may arise during probate:
The Will was Not Properly Executed
Washington State law requires that every will meet certain requirements to be legally valid. You cannot simply write down your wishes on a piece of paper and expect for that to be considered a valid will by the courts. Instead, the following must happen:
- The will must be in writing;
- The will must be signed by the testator (or by someone else who is being directed by the testator to sign for them);
- The will or an attached affidavit must be signed by two individuals who witnessed the testator signing the will and are competent to attest to the signing.
If any of these requirements do not exist, a will’s validity may be called into question.
The Testator Did Not Have Requisite Mental Capacity
Another requirement to make a will is that you must be mentally capable of understanding the effects of the document you are drafting and signing. If a person’s mental understanding is in question at the time of signing their will, someone may challenge the validity of the will. Proving someone‘s prior mental state after they have passed away can be difficult , however, for obvious reasons.
Another common claim is that someone else exercised undue influence over the testator in order to become a favored beneficiary of the estate. If someone got very close with the testator late in their lives and is suddenly and unexpectedly left a large portion of the estate, questions may arise whether they unduly influenced the testator to change their will.
The above are only some reasons why beneficiaries or others may choose to contest a will. Legal disputes regarding wills can be time-consuming and costly and can significantly delay the probate process. It is important that the personal representative is prepared to defend the will against contests and that they seek professional legal help if needed.