When faced with the shock of losing a loved one, you may be doubly confounded to learn that your loved one excluded you from the will or that your share of the estate is considerably smaller than what you expected to inherit. Perhaps the deceased made a point to tell you that he or she had included you in the will, but you learned after his or her death that your loved one had written a new will leaving you out.
These are not unusual circumstances, and people are disappointed by the estate plans of their loved ones every day. You may wonder if you have the right to challenge the will, and under certain circumstances, you may have a valid cause.
What are the valid reasons for a will dispute?
The first thing to understand is that the courts will only hear arguments to contest the will if you can prove that your loved one omitted you because he or she was mentally incapacitated at the time it was written or someone wrongfully persuaded your loved one to change or rewrite the document. You cannot bring a challenge to Texas probate court simply because your loved one left you out or did not leave behind the amount you expected.
Who is eligible contest a will?
You will have a better chance at contesting a will if you are a lawful heir. That means you are a close relative who would have a legal right to the estate if your loved one had not written a will, for example a spouse or biological child. However, unless you can establish that your exclusion from the will was unintentional or that the will is invalid for the reasons mentioned above, the court is not likely to hear your case.
The only other person who can contest a will besides a lawful heir is someone whom the deceased had included in a previous version of the will, either as a beneficiary or as a fiduciary. If this describes you, you should expect the challenge of a new will that excludes you to be difficult. You will have the burden to prove that the previous will was valid while the new will is not.
Contesting a will is complicated
There is such a narrow opening for a will contest, and few people are eligible to bring the matter to court. You have no standing for a will contest unless you are a lawful heir or named in a previous will. Even if you have legal standing, you may not be able to establish the invalidity of the existing will.
Additionally, if your loved one included a no-contest clause in the will, the act of bringing a challenge to court to seek a larger cut may cancel even the small inheritance you received. To obtain a greater understanding of how probate law relates to your unique situation, you would benefit from seeking answers from an experienced probate litigation attorney.