Texas Will Contest
Shutt Law Firm has represented many clients with Texas Will Contest court cases, both in contesting wills and in defending wills. “Contesting a will” involves a lawsuit that attacks the validity of a will in probate court. Our law office has a successful track record with estate litigation in court and in mediation. If you plan to contest a will in Texas or to defend the validity of a will, your probate attorney will likely introduce you to the most common ways of contesting a will in Texas:
Lack of Mental Capacity
In order for a will to be valid in Texas, the person signing the will (called the “testator”) must have the appropriate soundness of mind. A sound mind, for the purposes of a will contest, means that the testator had “testamentary capacity” at the time the will was signed. In short, a Last Will and Testament in Texas may be invalid if the testator lacked the mental capacity:
- to understand what he owned at the time the will was signed;
- to understand whom he was capable of giving that property to (the “natural objects of his bounty”);
- to understand that he intended to make a Last Will and Testament when he signed; and/or
- to understand the effect of signing his Last Will and Testament.
A Texas will can be contested due to improper signature or due to forged signature. For example, the signature on the will may be a forgery. Also, since typed wills must be witnessed by two witnesses, a will may be contested due to lack of witness signature.
If the testator’s mind was unduly influenced by another person, the Last Will and Testament can be contested on the basis of undue influence. Under Texas law, undue influence occurs when the testator’s mind was inappropriately affected by another person at the time of the will signing. It is improper to force or coerce someone into signing a will, especially if the will-signer had a weakened mind.
Duress, Fraud, and Tortious Interference with Inheritance Rights
While lack of mental capacity, improper execution, and undue influence are the most common ways to contest a will in Texas, courts have recognized other ways of attacking the validity of a will. However, it is less common to win in court when contesting a will in Texas on the basis of duress, fraud, or tortious interference with inheritance rights. As a result, these legal arguments are less common.
In the Dallas area, will contests are generally litigated in the Dallas County Probate Courts, Collin County Probate Court, Tarrant County Probate Courts, or Denton County Probate Courts.