What are the Grounds for Contesting a Will?
There are four legal reasons for contesting a will:
1) The will was not signed in compliance to state laws-
In the State of Georgia a will must be signed in the presence of the witnesses. There must be at least two witnesses who must be declared competent and at least the age of 14 at the time of witnessing the signing. If the will is not properly witnessed then the signing of the document cannot be considered legally valid.
2) The testator/testatrix lacked the capacity to sign a will-
“Testamentary capacity involves the following: The Testator understands (1) the nature and value of his or her “bounty” (assets); (2) the natural objects of that bounty (who should logically inherit the assets); and (3) the legal effect of signing a will.” Determining the capacity to sign a will may be difficult as it can be argued that there may be situations of coming and going capacity. In order to argue capacity an individual would need medical records or a mental assessment within close proximity to the documents signing that determines that the person lacked the ability to coherently make a legal decision on their own behalf.
3) The testator/testatrix was unduly influenced into signing a will-
the undue influencer must exert extreme pressure on the testator/ testatrix and the duress must be significant enough so that the signer must lose free will and submit to the influence others. Even harassing nagging, threats, and verbal abuse are not enough proof to substantiate undue influence. Undue Influence must have some additional legal aspect that affects the fulfillment of the will; such as, the influencer privately consulting with the attorney of the estate/will, the influencer finances any fees associated with drafting or altering the will, the influencer holds the original will in safekeeping without proper filling, and or the influencer must have separated the testator/ testatrix from close friends and family members. Like, capacity undue influence is hard to prove without the presence of hard evidence—such as an admission by the influencer.
4) The will was established by fraud-
If the will is established by fraud the testator/ testatrix is manipulated into signing a document that they may think is a different document legal or non-legal. In some cases the testator/ testatrix may have believed that they were in fact signing a deed, power of attorney, or title transfer. Witnesses may determine fraud through testimony if they believed that the testator/ testatrix was in fact lead to believe that what they were signing was for a different legal matter.