What to do if You Suspect You Have Been Wrongfully Cut Out of a Will
Typically, the reading of a will is not a surprising or unexpected situation. Many people share the contents of their will with their loved ones before their passing, or you can roughly estimate what you might inherit based on how close you were to your loved one and by intestacy laws. However, sometimes the reading of a will does shock potential heirs when they discover that they have been cut out of the estate. If you suspect that you have been wrongfully cut out of a will, it is critical that you speak with an experienced probate attorney as soon as possible to discuss your claims.
How You Might be Wrongfully Cut Out of a Will
There are many ways that an heir might be wrongfully cut out of a will. Some of the most common causes of wrongful will exclusion includes a lack of mental capacity, undue influence, duress, and fraud. Each reason has specific facts that must be presented and proven in court in order to get your rights to an estate restored, and an experienced probate attorney is your best chance for success.
Lack of Mental Capacity
A lack of mental capacity means that the person who wrote the will does not understand that he or she was creating a will, did not comprehend the breadth of the estate, did not know that the document signed was disposing of his or her property to others after death, or any combination thereof. If the deceased lacked the mental capacity to write a will and excluded you in that version, a previous version can be used in its place as the rightful will.
Undue influence is often seen as a cause of wrongfully cutting others out of a will along with a lack of mental capacity. Undue influence occurs when a person close to the deceased, typically a family member, friend, or caretaker, exerts so much influence over the deceased that they supplant the deceased’s will with his or her own. Often this is to the detriment of others that would normally inherit from the estate.
You might also be cut out of a will due to duress. This occurs when the person creating the will was coerced, forced, or threatened in order to benefit someone else or omit others from the will. If it can be shown that the deceased was under duress when the will was signed, a prior version or intestacy laws can replace the tainted will.
A final reason why you might be wrongfully omitted from a will is due to fraud. Will fraud can take place in many different ways, from ripping out existing pages of a valid will to inserting new pages without the knowledge or consent of the deceased. Fraud can also occur if a person gets the deceased to sign a will without their knowledge by hiding it in a stack of documents that require signing or using some other form of deceit to trick someone into signing a will. Wills produced by fraud are not valid, and if you were excluded in a fraudulently created will a successful challenge can get your share of the estate reinstated.
Why You Need to Challenge Early
It is important that if you believe that you have been wrongfully excluded from a will through a lack of mental capacity, undue influence, duress, or fraud, that you speak with a knowledgeable probate attorney as soon as possible. The earlier a challenge can be made to the court, the better your chances are of success. This is because if you wait to challenge a will, the proceeds of the estate might get distributed to the heirs named in the invalid will, which can make it extremely hard to collect the share that you are owed from the estate.
In addition, evidence can disappear and witnesses become less reliable as time goes on if you wait to challenge the validity of a will. Those who may have witnessed undue influence being exerted may pass away or forget. Fraudulently produced wills might disappear. This becomes even more important because the onus of a will challenge is on the person challenging, not the estate being challenged, so you need all of the evidence you can collect to prove your claims.
Talk to Our Experienced Attorneys Today
For more information about how to challenge a will if you believe that you have been wrongfully excluded from an estate, call or contact the experienced probate lawyers at The Inheritance Recovery Attorneys today.