Austin Will Contest Lawyers
A last will and testament can allow people to determine how their property is divided upon your death. However, sometimes, wills fail to reflect what a person truly wanted. When this is the case, and his or her loved ones know the will fails to properly reflect the deceased’s person’s wishes, they can contest the will. Will contests typically focus on whether the testator, or person that created the will, was under duress or undue influence.
People can challenge a will in its entirety, or they can challenge only certain portions of it. Whatever the case may be, those in Austin who wish to challenge a will should speak to a will contest lawyer at Michael P. Fleming & Associates, P.C. We can bring decades of experience to your case and a commitment to providing the highly personalized legal representation that you deserve. To learn more about how we can help you, call or reach us online today and receive a free and confidential consultation.
What Is a Will Contest Lawyer?
A will contest lawyer is an attorney that can help individuals to challenge a will on certain grounds. A will contest lawyer is also a probate lawyer, or one who is skilled and experienced in all matters of probate and estate planning. An attorney can help family members to contest a will they believe is invalid. They can help these individuals to challenge a will on grounds such as:
- Undue influence – When a person contests a will on grounds of undue influence, that person is alleging that someone else with authority over the testator, or the person that created the will, used that authority to influence the testator’s decisions about whom to leave their property. In other words, the person alleges that the property distribution outlined in the will is not the same as it would have been if the testator had made the will without undue influence.
- Lack of capacity – A person must be of sound mind to create a will. To execute the will, the testator must understand the nature of his or her property, and who that person wants to leave property to upon his or her death. When a person lacks the capacity to exercise reasonable judgment about these matters, then others can contest the will.
- Not in accordance with law – Texas law requires that certain steps be taken in order for a will to be valid. For example, all witnesses must sign the will. If they fail to do so, the will may be contested and declared to be invalid.
- Fraud – Testators must understand that they are signing a will that will dictate how their assets are distributed upon their death. If they are tricked or deceived into signing or creating a will, it is considered to be fraud, and the will may be deemed to be invalid.
Although it is possible to challenge a will in Texas, those that wish to do so should consult with a will contest lawyer as soon as possible.
When Should You Consult a Will Contest Lawyer?
In Texas, you have only a limited amount of time to contest a will. This is known as the statute of limitations. The time limit will depend on the specific circumstances of the will contest.
Which time limit applies can become complicated by the fact that the deceased’s next of kin or executor has four years to submit a will for probate. Only the named beneficiaries in a will must be notified that the will is in probate. So, those who are not mentioned in the will may not even realize that the process has begun. They may not know the clock has started on their time to contest a will.
Once a will enters probate, the beneficiaries and executor carry the burden of proving that the will is valid under Texas law. After receiving the will and the application for probate, a two-week waiting period will follow. During this time, a notice will be posted at the courthouse stating when the waiting period is over. If the will is not contested during this time, the court will open probate. The burden of proving that something is wrong with the will then shifts to the person that is contesting it.
If a will is contested after probate has opened, the person who is challenging the will have two years to initiate an action. However, some exceptions exist. For instance, if a person contests a will on the grounds of fraud or forgery, that person will have two years from the date of learning of the fraud to contest a will.
Sometimes, people submit a will to probate and then discover that the testator left another will. If the newly found will is dated after the one submitted to probate, those individuals will have four years to submit the new will to probate. Doing so automatically challenges the will that was first submitted to probate. If the newly found will is dated prior to the one submitted to probate, then the standard two-year statute of limitations will apply.
In some cases, a person may be unaware that the testator has passed away. So, the person will also be unaware that he or she may be legally entitled to part of the estate. This typically occurs when children are put up for adoption, or born outside of a marriage, and they don’t know who their biological parent is until probate has already closed. In these cases, individuals have up to four years after the close of probate to contest the will and make a claim for inheritance.
If a person is incapacitated throughout the two years of probate, that person may be unable to contest a will within the typical two-year probate period. Incapacitated individuals have two years from the date of regaining capacity to challenge a will. Minor children are considered incapacitated because they cannot take legal action. As such, they have two years from the date they reach the age of majority, or age 18, to contest a will.
Given the statute of limitations to contest a will, those wishing to do so should speak to a will contest lawyer as soon as possible. While the statute of limitations sounds like it provides a lot of time, it really does not. Collecting evidence to prove the grounds of contesting a will takes time. If individuals wait too long, they could miss their chance to take action.
Contact Our Austin Will Contest Attorneys Today
If you have lost someone and believe your loved one’s will to be invalid, contact our Austin will contest lawyers at Michael P. Fleming & Associates, P.C., today. We can launch an immediate investigation of your case, handle all necessary paperwork and, above all, fight for the inheritance which you deserve. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation and learn more about how we can help you.