Contesting a will in Texas means you’re objecting to and challenging the validity of the will. This is a multi-step process that requires extensive legal knowledge. Working with an experienced probate and estate administration lawyer in Texas is important to the success of your case.
How to Contest a Will in Texas
There are several qualifications to contest a will in Texas. The contestant must have standing, which means they must be an interested person. They must also have proper grounds to contest.
Only interested persons may contest a will in Texas. This is any person or entity who has a right or claim to the estate. For example, spouses, heirs, and devisees are all interested persons. To clarify, heirs are people closely related to the deceased person by blood, marriage, or adoption, who would inherit if the person died with no will. Devisees are those named in the will and may include more distant relatives or individuals unrelated to the decedent.
Grounds to Contest
Being unsatisfied with your inheritance does not give you grounds to contest a will. There must be a valid theory upon which you base your objection. Here are some acceptable reasons for contesting a will in Texas.
Revocation by testator
Under this theory, you’re alleging that the testator (i.e. the person who created the will) revoked the will by either executing a subsequent one or physically destroying the original.
Lack of testamentary capacity
To create a valid will, the testator must have the appropriate mental capacity. You can allege that, at the time of creating the will, the testator lacked the ability to create a will (i.e. testamentary capacity).
Failure to properly execute
Texas has certain requirements when forming a valid will. For example, the will must be in writing and witnessed. A will contest can be based on evidence that the will was not properly executed.
A will procured by fraud is invalid. For example, evidence that the testator or witness’s signature was forged is fraud.
This theory allows you to argue that the will was created as a result of undue influence. For example, the testator may have been pressured by a child or other family member to write certain terms in the will.
The testator must know that he or she is creating a will. If that’s not the case, then the will is invalid because the testator mistakenly made it. Another example is if the testator distributed property under the will based on mistaken knowledge.
File Petition with Probate Court
Contesting a will in Texas involves filing a petition with the appropriate probate court. The burden is on the contestant to show they are an interested person and have a valid theory for challenging the will. After that, a hearing will take place, which requires submitting evidence, interviewing witnesses, and possibly bringing in experts. This complex legal proceeding is not something you want to do alone. It’s incredibly important to consult with a knowledgeable probate and estate administration attorney who can help you build a strong case.
How Long Do I Have to Contest a Will?
A will must be contested within two years from the date the will is admitted to probate. If you miss this deadline, in most cases you lose your right to challenge the will.
How Long Does It Take to Contest a Will?
The timeline to contest a will mostly depends on how complex the case is. You also have to factor in the court’s current caseload and how soon it can hear your case. For many people, settling outside of court is a better option than enduring months or years of litigation.
What Is the Success Rate of Contesting a Will in Texas?
Courts presume that wills are valid. For those contesting a will in Texas, the burden of proving its invalidity is high. Your success will depend on the strength of your case.
Contact the Experienced Probate and Estate Administration Attorneys at Robbins Estate Law
Contesting a will is complex, time-consuming, and costly. However, we understand how important these types of cases are to all of the family members involved. At Robbins Estate Law we analyze the information you give us to determine if filing a will contest is the best course of action. We can provide alternatives for you to consider. If you do choose to file a petition to contest a will, we have the resources to help you prepare a solid case. Founding attorney Kyle Robbins graduated at the top of his class and has the skill and knowledge you want.
To schedule your free consultation, contact us today.