Contest a Will in Texas: Top Things to Know
Shutt Law Firm handles Will contests in Texas. A “will contest” is when a person legally challenges or disputes a deceased person’s Last Will and Testament. Texas will contests are usually lawsuits handled in probate court, though many will contest cases settle outside of court. Here are some of the top questions people have about will contests: .
1. When Should You Contest a Will in Texas?
To contest a Last Will and Testament in Texas, you need a legal reason the Will is invalid. You can’t contest a Will just because you don’t like what the will states. The five most common legal reasons for contesting a Last Will and Testament are:
1. The Will wasn’t signed properly (by either the Will-Signer or the witnesses).
2. The Will-Signer didn’t have the mental capacity to sign the Will.
3. Someone exerted “undue influence” on the Will-Signer.
4. Someone forged the Will-Signer’s signature on the Will or the Will-Signer signed the document but didn’t realize it was a Will.
5. In cases involving a handwritten Wills, the Will is not entirely in the handwriting of the Will-Signer.
If you think there’s an issue with the Will, you should contact a Texas probate attorney to help contest the Will. It’s important that you talk with a probate lawyer as soon as possible, because it gets more difficult legally the longer you wait.
2. What is “Standing” to Contest the Will?
To contest a Will, you need to be directly affected by the Will and have an interest in the deceased’s estate that you think has been or will be effected. This is having “standing” to contest the Will. If you don’t have standing to contest the Will, even if you get a lawyer, you won’t be able to make any legal arguments against the Will in court..
3. Timing-wise, When Should You Contest a Will in Texas?
Legally speaking, a Will is easier to contest before it has been admitted to probate by the probate judge. If you contest the Will before probate, the person who files the Will for probate (the executor) has to prove that the Will is valid (meet the burden of proof). In other words, if you contest the Will before the Will is probated, the proponent of the Will has the burden to establish that the Will is valid in every way.
After the Will has been probated, the burden is on the person contesting the Will to establish that the Will isn’t valid for some reason. Also, after the Will is probated, you usually have 2 years to contest the Will.
4. What Happens After Your Lawyer Files the Will Contest with the Court?
When there’s a Will contest, the probate court has to settle the dispute before the estate can be distributed. It can take months or years to resolve an estate dispute. This is why many Texas estate disputes end in settlement. Sometimes the attorneys can work with the clients to come to an agreement about the distribution of the estate, but other times a third-party probate mediator assists with estate settlements. In fact, the probate court might require the parties to attend mediation to see if that helps end the suit.
5. Who Decides Whether or not the Will is Valid?
The probate court decides if the Will-Signer executed the Will properly: Are the requirements of a valid will present? Were the necessary legal formalities followed? The probate court can take evidence and testimony to help the judge decide if the document meets the legal requirements of a Texas Last Will and Testament. If the document appears to have the technical requirements of a valid Will in Texas, then the probate court (or a jury) decides fact issues. For example, whether the Will-Signer had the mental capacity to sign, or whether the Will-Signer was unduly influenced by someone else.
6. What Happens if the Will is Successfully Challenged?
If the Will-Signer wrote a different Will before the contested Will, and that older Will is valid, the older Will may be probated. For example, if someone dies with a Will that is from 2012 and an earlier will from 2008. Then, someone successfully contests the 2012 Will. The 2012 Will is now ignored, and we would probate the 2008 Will and distribute the estate in accordance with the 2008 Will.
If there is no earlier Will, then the law treats the situation as if the Will-Signer died without a Will and Texas intestacy laws are followed. Intestacy laws are the legal defaults for who the heirs are in the absence of a Will.
To ask a legal question or get legal help from Texas wills and Texas Wills and Probate lawyers Isaac Shutt and Peter Hall, use the online contact form to the right or call (214) 302-8197. If you prefer to meet at the law office in person, the attorneys will gladly offer a free consultation.
Visit www.ShuttLawFirm.com for more information on when to contest a will in Texas, the will contest process, the attorney fees for contesting a Will in Texas, or any other issues involving Texas estate litigation, contact Texas Probate Attorneys Isaac Shutt and Peter Hall at email@example.com.
Shutt Law Firm’s office is conveniently located just north of Dallas, and just south of Plano, TX. The law office is near the intersection of highway 75 and Campbell Road in Richardson, Texas.
You can also call Mr. Shutt or Mr. Hall at (214) 302-8197 for more information on the topic discussed in this article or to discuss a different legal matter.
Please consider the Shutt Law Firm for probate in Texas, Texas Last Will and Testaments, estate disputes, or you need Richardson probate lawyers serving Dallas, Plano, Allen, McKinney, Garland, Addison, Denton, TX, Collin County, Tarrant County, or surrounding North Texas area.
DISCLAIMER: Nothing in this brief article constitutes legal advice. The information provided herein is merely provided in the spirit of education and is believed to be accurate as of the time it was originally prepared, and laws change. If you have a legal question, you should consult a lawyer for your specific legal situation. Further, nothing in this article shall be construed to have started an attorney-client relationship. No such relationship exists until both you and and an attorney at Shutt Law Firm sign an engagement letter.
By Elizabeth Nanez