When a loved one passes away, you may find yourself facing a will contest, where one or more family members are disputing the division of property. Will contests and other estate administration disputes can often be complex, and there’s no reason for you to tackle this alone.
Keep reading to learn more about will contests in Texas.
What Is A Will Contest?
Though most probate cases proceed without dispute (or uncontested), will contests do happen. A will contest is a lawsuit where someone with an interest in the estate sues to keep a will from being admitted to probate or sues have the will set aside (if it has already been admitted to probate).
Who Has the Burden of Proof in a Will Contest?
If a will has not been admitted to probate, then the burden to prove that the will is valid falls on the will proponent.
However, if the will has been probated, then the burden of proof falls on the individual contesting the will. In other words, this person must prove – beyond a preponderance of the evidence – that the will is invalid.
This will challenge is brought by the “contestant.” But, before the contestant can challenge the will, they must have “standing.” Standing means that the contestant has the right to bring a legal claim.
In will contests, “interested parties” in the will may bring a claim. These parties include:
- Any other person that may have an interest in the will
Additionally, according to Texas Probate Law, an interested party who has standing can legally dispute a will’s validity within two years that the will is filed with the probate court.
Neither the contesting party nor the proponent of the will are permitted to administer the estate and a temporary administrator is appointed to collect the assets and pay necessary expenses of the estate while the contest is pending.
What Are Some Reasons to Contest a Will?
Here are some common reasons an interested party may contest a will:
- Lack of mental capacity
- Undue influence
- Improper will formation
- Ambiguous will language
- Errors in administration
- Other legal noncompliance
What Is No Contest Clause?
Wills may include a “no contest” clause, preventing litigation over the terms of the will and thus, eliminating (or reducing) family disputes. If your will has a “no contest” clause, then it cannot be disputed unless:
- There is good reason to challenge the no contest clause, and
- The contest has been brought in good faith
If you’re dealing with a will contest, understanding whether the document has a “no contest” clause is essential.
If you’re facing a will contest for a loved one, it’s best to have the help of a skilled Texas probate attorney to help you navigate this legal process. At Norris & Weber, our experienced and compassionate attorneys are dedicated to protecting you and your family.
If you are facing difficult matters related to wills or will contests, you can rely on our firm to defend your best interests and help make times like this go as smoothly as possible.