It is an unfortunate fact that inheritance of an estate does not always go smoothly, but for the long-term best interests of a family, it may sometimes be necessary to contest a will in Texas. There are a number of specific grounds to contest a will in Texas on which such an action may proceed, and it behooves you to plan a specific strategy, and collect certain documentation, if you wish to successfully bring a will contest. The following introductory article has been prepared by our attorneys on the issue of will contests under Texas law. It explains the basics of how to contest a will in Texas.
A will contest is a lawsuit that seeks to prevent a certain disposition of someone’s assets upon his or her death. It involves trying to “knock out” a will and stop a court from accepting that will as a valid legal document. The testator is the person who signed the last will and testament that is being contested.
There are four typical grounds for a will contest in Texas:
- Lack of testamentary capacity – Lack of testamentary capacity becomes an issue when someone claims that the testator did not understand the fact that he signed a will, or what property he was giving away to whom.
- Undue influence – Undue influence occurs when someone exercises an influence upon the testator that inappropriately swayed the testator’s mind at the time the testator signed the will. Under that undue influence, the testator must have made a will different from how the testator would normally make a will.
- Due execution – Texas requires certain formalities to exist at the time a will is executed, or signed, by the testator, the witnesses, and the notary. When a will is signed without the proper formalities, that will can be found to be invalid.
- Other noncompliance with Texas law – A will is a complex legal document that contains many elements to be considered a valid will in Texas. If the will is missing one of the required legal elements, the validity of the entire document could be challenged in court.
Each will contest case entails essential elements of information that help to prove our case. Of course, the type of evidence needed in a certain case depends upon the grounds for each contest, but we have established categories that are useful in almost every situation:
- Witnesses who can provide facts concerning the execution of the will
- Medical records that show relevant medical conditions of the testator
- Contracts and other legal documents executed by testator
- Prior wills, codicils, and powers of attorney executed by the testator
- Correspondence of the testator, including electronic communications
- Financial records that indicate unusual gifts to people influential to the testator
If you are concerned that your loved one executed a will that includes some unusual gifts or other terms and your goal is to protect your loved one, start gathering some of the key evidence listed above. Document your concerns and obtain sound legal advice. Texas law requires a person contesting a will to file the lawsuit within certain time parameters, so it is important to be mindful of those statutes of limitation.
This article provides an outline for the basic steps to understand how to contest a will in Texas. An analysis of how Texas will contest law will apply to you is necessary to decide if your attempt to contest a will in Texas is likely to find favor in the courts. And be sure to note well the time-limits mentioned above; you may have a valid case, but be denied a hearing if you wait too long. If you would like to investigate the matter of a will contest under Texas law further, please do not delay in reaching out to one of our top-rated Texas attorneys who specialize in will disputes for an initial phone consultation. We are Dallas-based, but serve clients throughout North Texas and from Waco to Abilene to Amarillo to Wichita Falls to East Texas, and everywhere in between. Our office is convenient to the North Dallas suburbs such as Plano or Farmers Branch, and people come to us from as far as Mesquite or Irving.