If you believe your inheritance rights have been violated, you will require the expert assistance of a Florida Will contest attorney. Doing so will allow you to file a petition that could change the way the estate is distributed.
What is a Will Contest?
Following a death in Florida, the law and courts distribute the decedent’s estate according to his or her wishes – in the will. However, under certain circumstances, a beneficiary can challenge these plans in court. This is called a ‘Will contest’.
If you are considering making a Will contest in Florida, please be aware that only certain individuals have the legal right to do so and within a very limited timeframe. By contacting a Florida Will contest attorney, you can discuss which route is best for you.
How to Contest a Will in Florida?
Anyone who wishes to make a Will contest in Florida must file a petition through the probate court where the will is being probated.
This will request the court to revoke or deem the Will as invalid depending on the given reason such as fraud, coercion or undue influence.
The other beneficiaries and court will then be notified and the case will be settled or be decided upon by a judge in a hearing.
Who Can Contest a Will in Florida?
In Florida, anyone “who may reasonably be expected to be affected” by the distribution of the decedent’’s estate is an ‘interested person.’
However, as this is loosely defined, the probate court will determine on an individual basis whether someone has legal standing to file a Will contest in Florida.
Interested persons usually include:
- Beneficiaries named in the current will.
- Beneficiaries named in a prior version of the will.
- Anyone not named in the will, but who may have been eligible for inheritance under Intestacy laws, such as close relatives.
How Long Do I Have to File a Will Contest in Florida?
Under Florida law, there is a very strict deadline for Will contests – 90 days after the notice of administration has been filed. This is a very short period considering that you will need to consider your options, gather the supporting documents, hire an attorney and start the Will contest process.
In some cases, the time frame can be reduced to 20 days if a Formal Notice of Administration has been received before the probate process has begun.
Given the strict deadlines, it is highly advised that you immediately contact a Florida Will contest attorney to discuss the best options for you and get the legal expertise you will require. Time is of the essence.
Reasons for Contesting a Will in Florida
An undue influence claim alleges that the testator (the decedent) was under the improper influence of another person when executing the Will, so it was not done freely.
Common examples include when the testator was pressured or manipulated into including someone in the Will, or leaving someone out.
When evaluating undue influence claims, Florida courts consider:
- If the testator and the influencer had a confidential relationship.
- If the influencer is a substantial beneficiary of the estate.
- If the influencer took an active role in the procuring of the Will.
If you can show these three factors occurred, then there is a presumption of undue influence. The estate will then have to show the undue influence didn’t happen to stop the Will from being adjusted.
If you or a loved one has been pressured, manipulated or limited in the freedom to change your estate plan; or you believe your inheritance has been stolen through undue influence, then contact our experienced Florida Will contest attorneys today.
Lack of Testamentary Capacity
The person making the will must have the mental competency to fully understand their choices and the effects of their decisions. This is called ‘sound mind.’
Proving that an individual lacks a sound mind usually relies on the medical evidence of dementia, Alzheimer’s or other types of mental incapacity. However, there are instances where a medical diagnosis is not necessary.
Insane delusion is another example. The Florida Supreme Court describes insane delusion as a “fixed false belief without a hypothesis, having no foundation in reality.”
It must be proven that the lack of sound mind was present when the Will was signed.
Florida law rules that a Will is void if procured through fraud. There are two primary types of fraud:
- Fraud in the Execution: The Will creator was tricked into thinking they were signing something other than the Will or that it was not legally binding.
- Fraud in the Inducement: The Will creator was intentionally misled by a material fact, causing them to make a different choice than they would have under ordinary circumstances.
Any Will must have been executed with the appropriate formalities. In the past, Florida courts have deemed Wills to be invalid if this was not the case. Florida Statute 732.502 states:
- A Will must be in writing.
- The testator must sign it.
- The testator must be in the presence of two witnesses.
- The testator must acknowledge the signing to the witnesses.
Many Wills include a ‘self-proof affidavit’ which states the presence of the witnesses and testator signing under oath before a notary public, but even that can sometimes be improper and can be challenged.
Contact A Florida Will Contest Attorney As Soon As Possible
If you or other beneficiaries of an estate feel your rights to inheritance have been infringed, it’s vital that you contact a Florida Will contest attorney fast.
The timeline for contesting a Will in Florida is very tight. Gaining legal expertise fast can help you avoid family rifts and fights while also ensuring everyone gets the fair distribution of assets and money.
Without the legal standing and experience of a Florida Will contest attorney, you will struggle to file a claim with the appropriate documentation and have a strong standing in front of a judge.
Battaglia, Ross, Dicus & McQuaid, P.A. is a U.S. News and World Reports Tier 1 law firm in Florida, specializing in Estate Planning & Probate since 1958. With award-winning experienced attorneys, they give you the best chance of getting the resolution you hope for.
Schedule a free consultation today to get started.