Would you like to know if a loved one’s Last Will and Testament is valid? Here are 6 ways a will can be considered invalid.
1. Undue Influence
Undue influence is where the person who has passed away (also referred as decedent), made the Will not based on their own judgement, but based on somebody else’s wishes. Types of influences in theses cases would include intimidation, physical threat, etc. It is very heartbreaking and common that those who tend to influence the decedent are those close to your loved one.
When contesting a Will, the Texas Supreme Court set out the factors that determine undue influence in Rothermel v. Duncan 369 S.W.2d 917 (Tex.1963). All three factors below need to exist in order to be considered undue influence:
- The existence of an influence;
- Overpowering or threatening the testator through influence
- Without the influence, the Will would not have been executed.
2. Testamentary Capacity
Also known as lack of mental capacity. For a Will to be valid, the decedent needed to be in their right mind at the time the document was signed. For a loved one to be considered to have sufficient mental capacity, they must have:
- Understood the fact they were making a Will;
- Understood the impact their Will would have on their loved ones once they has passed away;
- Understood the extent and nature of their estate;
- Had enough memory to have all information in their mind to determine how their estate would be separated upon their death.
One of the harder things to prove as the court assumes the decedent was in their right state of mind when the will was created. This process might need to involve witnesses and other evidence, as well as experienced nurses and doctors who can provide insights to mentally debilitation conditions.
3. Unnatural Distribution
An unnatural distribution of property, such as disinheriting a child, may indicate that your loved one was not of sound mind, making the Will invalid. If an unnatural distribution of property was intentional, it would need to have been clearly articulated and documented.
4. Under the age of 18
One of the simplest and most straightforward one – if a Will was made when the decendent was younger than 18, their Will is not considered valid. It would only be considered valid if they were married or in the armed forces.
5. Fraud in Inducement
Inducement fraud occurs when facts are intentionally misrepresented. Regardless of what these facts might have been, the decedent might have made different decisions about their Will if they had known them. So basically, it means someone purposely misled your loved one.
An example would be your loved one may have been told, for example, that a family member or relative, who would most likely have received a share of the testator’s estate, did not need the money. If your loved one knew this type of information, he or she would probably choose a different route when it came to distributing assets.
The least surprising one that would make any document invalid. A forged signature on a Will can be challenged. However, it is not very easy to prove a signature was forged. You will need proof the signature did not belong to your loved one.
If any of the factors we just discussed have hit a little too close to home, it could mean you have grounds to contest the Will. If you need help navigating through your Will Contestation case, our team at iLaw can help you!