Trusted Springfield Wills & Trusts Attorneys Ready To Assist You
When a person dies with a will in place, that will must go through a process called probate. A probate judge must determine that the will is valid and admit it into the probate process. That judge appoints a personal representative for the estate. That representative pays off estate debts and distributes the remaining assets as specified in the document. But there are cases where someone objects to admitting a will to probate. We call this objection a will contest. But Tennessee law limits a person’s ability to contest a will, the time they have to file their challenge, and the reasons for which a will can be challenged in the first place. Our experienced Springfield wills & trusts lawyers can help you.
Who Can Contest a Will?
Before you can contest a will in Tennessee, you must have standing. Standing is the right to file a challenge to the will. Only people with a direct financial interest in the case can contest a will. So if you are related to the deceased or stand to inherit if the current will is invalidated, then you likely have the standing to challenge the will.
The question of standing is one of the first the court must answer before a will contest can proceed. And it can be a complex matter, as there are several factors a judge must weigh before making a determination. Our seasoned Springfield will contest lawyers understand these factors and can advise you throughout this process.
How Much Time Do I Have to Contest a Will?
Almost all legal matters have a time limit within which they must be addressed or forever barred from being raised again. The laws of Tennessee state that you have two years from the date a judge admits the will to probate to file your objection. But you must take certain steps before filing suit. So if you have concerns about a will, be sure to speak with our Springfield wills and trusts attorneys as soon as possible.
Contact Batson & Nolan PLC today online or by calling 615-382-4420.
What Circumstances Allow Me to Contest a Will?
In Tennessee, the plaintiff must have a valid basis to challenge the validity of a will. You can base an objection on:
- Improper execution,
- Lack of capacity, or
- Undue influence.
Improper execution simply means that the testator did not meet the requirements for a valid will. For instance, the law requires the testator and two witnesses to sign a valid will. If any of these signatures is missing or called into question, the will may be invalid.
Lack of Capacity
By far, the most common basis for a will contest is a lack of testamentary capacity. The law requires that a person making a will (testator) be of sound mind and understand what they are doing. They must know what their assets are and whom they wish to give them to after death.
When the court attempts to determine if the testator had the mental capacity to create a will, they look solely at the time of its execution. So if the testator made the will in March of 2010, the court will look to their capacity at that time only. If the testator began to experience dementia at a later date, this has no relevance to testamentary capacity relating to the will.
And proving lack of capacity is no easy task. The plaintiff cannot point to one instance that appears illogical to prove a lack of capacity. This claim requires testimony from more than one person, establishing that the testator was confused and irrational when they executed the document. Witnesses must testify under oath to episodes of forgetting family names, not being able to follow simple directions, forgetting periods of time, or exhibiting mental instability. Seasoned Springfield will contest attorneys who know how to establish mental incapacity properly and can give you an assessment of your chances in court.
If someone coerced, threatened, or forced the testator to make certain provisions in their will, you may have a case of undue influence. Typically this happens when a family member or caregiver has a lot of influence over the testator.
It is clear that a standard will is the centerpiece of an estate plan. A will provides clear direction regarding what you wish to happen with your assets when you pass away. However, there is another very important document close in name, but completely different in effect — living will. A living will is also known as a healthcare directive. A firm with experienced wills and trusts lawyers in Springfield can create a living will where you can state your desires regarding medical treatment in dire situations.
For instance, say you develop a terminal illness, brain injury, dementia, etc., that renders you unable to convey your wishes regarding your care. Your living will can speak for you. Through a living will, while you are still competent, you can provide instructions regarding whether you wish to use things such as feeding tubes and assisted breathing devices. In addition, your living will can state whether you wish to be resuscitated in a medical emergency. A living will is only valid if you are unable to communicate your wishes.
Please be aware that a living will is not the same as a healthcare power of attorney (HPOA). An HPOA gives a person the authority to act on your behalf if you are unable to. If you lose consciousness, for instance, or are otherwise unable to speak for yourself, your HPOA will make decisions regarding your care. A living will, however, is your own voice speaking through the document and clearly stating your wishes.
Springfield wills and trusts attorneys can assist in explaining these documents further and create all of the documents you should have.
Springfield Wills and Trusts Lawyers Can Help
If you believe that you have a valid reason to contest a will, having an experienced estate planning attorney from Batson Nolan PLC by your side can make all the difference in the world. So don’t go it alone. Call our Springfield wills & trusts lawyers today or contact us online to set up a free consultation in our Springfield office.
Our lawyers also handle other legal cases, including: