Things to note when contesting a will
A will, in legal terms, is a document whereby you express your requirements to divide your assets and estate in different proportions to your descendants, relatives, friends, or even to the state. The drafting of a will is a simple process, but there are legal implications if it is not done properly. The requirements differ from country to country and even in different states. To be assured that the will is legally valid in the eyes of the law, it is best to approach a qualified lawyer for help.
What happens if a will is not drafted properly?
This is when the intestacy law comes into play, where the court may not respect the details in the will and may instead make the decisions on how to divide the assets. In this scenario, only the spouse and family members will be able to receive the assets. For example, the will does not have the sufficient and appropriate witnesses, or even not appointing a personal representative to execute the will. These reasons could deem the will to be invalid.
Contesting a will
In certain countries and states, there are different grounds in contesting a will. Some of the common situations would include: whether the deceased had the mental capacity (due to a medical condition or under the influence of alcohol or drugs) to draft the will, whether there was coercion involved, whether there are any dependents who are financially dependent upon the deceased, or even if the situation is unfair to a family member. While these reasons may not grant you a situation in your favour, at least there is a chance that you could win the case.
Hiring a lawyer
When hiring a lawyer, look out for these few things: the reputation of the firm, the amount of legal fees they are charging, the types of billing charges (whether they offer a guarantee on their work), and even the seniority of the lawyer. When you feel that you are ready to contest the will, the lawyer will firstly review your case, and if the legal expert agrees with you, they would likely advise you to proceed with the will contestation.
Differing types of legal fees
Before contesting a will, do consider your finances carefully. If the court decides that there is no grounds for your claims, be prepared to pay for the legal fees incurred through your hired lawyer. Different companies have different rates, with some charging by the minute or even by the hour. Some have a risk assurance concept where they will not charge you a single cent if they do not win the case. You will only pay the fees if they have won the case successfully. If you are in financial difficulties, it would be best to find a lawyer who will represent you on a no win – no fee basis.
Contesting a will can put a toll on your finances if it is not done properly and it will even strain the relationship of family members. It is always advisable to take things to the table and talk things out amicably about the division of the estate and assets. If it cannot be done, the last resort would be to take it to probate court.