When Does a Will Become Invalid?
Learn the key factors that can invalidate a will from Kevin C. Martin, Attorney at Law, PLLC. Call us to schedule a consultation.
What Is the Importance of Having a Valid Will?
No matter the circumstances, a valid will cannot be overstated. Having your unfinished business dealt with after you pass away could be a massive burden on your loved ones. In order to plan your estate, you must understand how to get a valid will under state laws. Not only will it benefit you, but it will also benefit your family and the executor of your estate.
This article shows you how to help ensure that your last will is valid by looking at the possible grounds that invalidate it and how to prevent it.
When making a valid last will and testament in Washington, DC, it is best that you have legal counsel by your side. At Kevin C. Martin, Attorney At Law, PLLC, we can help ensure your will is valid, legally binding, and compliant.
What Constitutes a Valid Will?
In order for a will to be valid in Virginia, the following requirements must be met:
- The will must be signed by the testator (the person making the will). If it isn’t possible for the testator to sign, the will must be signed by someone in the testator’s presence and direction.
- At least two disinterested proper witnesses must sign in the presence of the testator and at the testator’s direction are required.
- A will needs to be wholly in writing. If not, it will only be considered valid if it is signed by the testator or is acknowledged by the testator in the presence of at least two competent witnesses.
Common Reasons a Will Can Become Invalid
Since a will is your final act, making sure it is uncontested is crucial. Unfortunately, some common mistakes can render a will invalid. Here are some common reasons wills are invalidated:
Lack of Capacity
Without testamentary capacity, a person cannot voluntarily and legally consent to any legal agreement. It is possible that the testator has a mental disability or is of unsound mind.
Undue Influence or Duress
Wills can be declared invalid if it is determined that they were made under duress or under undue influence. This situation may involve another person forcing or tricking the testator to leave them an inheritance.
A will is improperly executed if it was incorrectly witnessed or signed. It is also possible that additional state law requirements were not followed.
How to Contest an Invalid Will
In contesting the validity of a will, the opposition must have a legal ground and legal standing.
Legal Standing for Contesting
Before taking any action, determine if you have the legal right to contest the will. If you wish to challenge the estate, you must have a direct or indirect interest in it (this is known as “standing”).
The following are generally eligible to challenge a will:
A beneficiary of a newer will
A beneficiary of the current will
A beneficiary of a prior will or old will
A possible beneficiary under intestate law, if there was no will
Legal Grounds for Contesting
There also need to be legal grounds for contesting a will. Below are the most common reasons for contesting a will:
- Lack of capacity of the testator to make a will: This means that the person was not of sound mind when that person made the will.
- Undue influence, duress, or fraud: If a will was created under duress, undue influence, or fraudulent means, it can be contested.
- Multiple wills exist: A will can be contested if a new will that is more recent than the will that’s being probated exists. As soon as there is doubt about the most recent will, there is a reason for contention.
- State laws and requirements are not followed: As with most states, Virginia has its own laws regarding wills and their content. If these laws are not followed, a will could be rejected or challenged.
The Process of Contesting a Will
If you or your loved one would like to contest a will, the following steps could help guide you.
- Make sure that you have legal standing to contest a will.
- Check if the will is valid or invalid.
- Research your state’s laws and inspect the will to ensure there is no no-contest clause.
- File a petition to challenge the will in question in a probate court.
- Collect evidence and speak with witnesses who can support your case.
- Go to the court and contest the validity of a will.
In order to avoid the complex process of contesting a will, hire a probate lawyer in Virginia. Your lawyer can prepare proper documentation, file the proper pleading within the deadline, present your evidence, and deal with the other parties involved.
Protecting Your Will from Becoming Invalid
There are two significant ways to make sure your current will remains valid and reflective of your desires.
Whenever you update your will, you must ensure that the previous wills are destroyed. This is to prevent confusion among your family members, which can be a point of contention. This helps ensure that your new will won’t be contestable and is up to date.
The most important thing you should do as you update your will regularly is to destroy any previous wills you have had. Updating your will regularly will secure your beneficiaries’ and loved ones’ inheritances and reflect your wishes at current life stages.
Guaranteeing the validity of an existing will can be tricky to deal with for a bereaved family member. To save yourself the trouble, it is in your best interest to hire a qualified attorney with experience in estate planning. With a lawyer, you can comply with the state’s requirements in making a valid will.
Kevin C. Martin, Attorney at Law, PLLC, Can Help You Draft Your Will
The invalidity of a will can raise a number of issues. For example, it can lead to misinterpretation of the testator’s wishes and the distribution of their assets in a way that goes against their wishes. Another issue is that a will that is invalid leads to delays in the probate process and an increase in costs as well.
At Kevin C. Martin, Attorney At Law, PLLC, we are committed to helping you protect your assets and plan for the future.
Aside from estate planning, we also provide services regarding asset protection planning, special needs planning, and estate tax protection. For more information about the choices you have, call us.