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When can someone contest a will in Texas?

On Behalf of | Jul 29, 2021 | Probate, Probate & Estate Administration, Wills |

The purpose of wills is to carry out the wishes of the deceased. Still, sometimes the will’s beneficiaries can identify problems with the way in which their loved one drafted the will. When this happens, those who have an interest in the deceased’s property can contest it.

The execution of a will

Those who have an interest in the will can challenge it if they think it was drafted under unfair circumstances. Interested persons in the estate include heirs, spouses, creditors and anyone who has a right to the deceased’s property. To contest a will in Texas, an interested person must prove that it was drafted under one of the following circumstances.

The testator was not sound of mind

The Texas Estate Code says that for a will to be valid, the testator must have signed it willingly, with intent and while they had the mental capacity to do so.  The state considers that a person was sound of mind if, when signing their will, they:

  • Understood what property they owned
  • Understood that what they were signing was their will
  • Understood the terms and the way wills work

Proving that a person was not sound of mind when signing their will is difficult. However, it is possible if the interested persons show evidence that the testator had a diagnosis of diminished mental capacity at the time.

The testator signed it under constraint

If the testator signed the will under undue influence, the beneficiaries of the will can contest it. Undue influence means that someone threatened or forced the person to sign the will. If that person signed the will under constraint, they may not have signed it if it wasn’t for the threats, which is why the beneficiaries can contest it.

The testator improperly executed the will

The testator must have executed the will with the formalities required by the law. Otherwise, it is invalid. The state of Texas recognizes three types of will, and each one must meet their specific requirements:

  • Oral will: there must have been at least three witnesses present and made by the deceased in their home.
  • Handwritten (holographic) will: must be wholly in the testator’s handwriting and have their signature.
  • Typewritten will: must be signed by the testator and by two credible witnesses.

The interested persons can contest a handwritten will if its terms are unclear and many beneficiaries are involved.

Contesting a will

The people who are interested in the deceased’s property can contest a will before or after probate. Those interested need to commence a suit to challenge the validity of the will no later than two years after probate court admitted it. Anyone contesting a will should consider getting legal representation in court, as it is a complicated and lengthy process. That way, the beneficiaries can do justice on behalf of the deceased.

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