If you believe a will’s details are unfair or suspect foul play, then you may be able to contest a will in Florida. However, this is only possible under specific circumstances.
The list of people who can make a claim is relatively simple to understand, but things get complicated when it comes to justified reasons.
In this blog, we’ll break things down for you:
What Is a Will Contest?
A Will Contest is when an interested person or beneficiary challenges the document in court.
They must file a petition through the probate court where the will is being probated.
At a hearing, the judge will determine whether there are grounds to revoke or deem the will invalid.
By contacting our Florida Will Contest attorneys, we can see what options you have before guiding you through the process.
How Long Do I Have to Make a Will Contest?
In Florida, you have until just 90 days after the notice for administration has been filed to make a will contest.
In some scenarios, the deadline could be reduced to just 20 days, if a Formal Notice of Administration has been received before probate has begun.
Can I Contest a Will in Florida?
Are You an ‘Interested Person’?
Anyone who is an ‘interested person’ can contest a will in Florida.
An interested person is anyone ‘who may reasonably be expected to be affected’.
Due to this loose definition, the probate court usually determines on an individual basis whether someone has legal standing to contest a Will in Florida.
But in most cases, an interested person is:
- A beneficiary named in the will
- Beneficiaries named in any prior version of the will.
- Anyone not named in the will, but is eligible for inheritance under Intestacy Laws (close relatives, for example).
- Guardians of minors
Reasons You Need to Contest a Will in Florida
If you are an interested person, you must have a reason to contest a will in Florida. Merely being disappointed with the will is not enough.
In our experience, we have seen people contest a Will in Florida for the following reasons:
If You Suspect Undue Influence
If you believe the deceased person was under the improper influence of someone else when creating and executing their will, you may be able to contest a will in Florida.
Put simply, a will must be signed without pressure, manipulation or any form of improper influence.
For example, you may have been left out of Mother’s will because a sibling pressured her into it.
Florida courts may revoke or invalidate a will:
- If the will creator and the accused influencer had a confidential relationship.
- If the accused influencer is a substantial beneficiary in the will.
- If the accused influencer took an active role in the procuring of the will.
If these three factors are found to have happened, then there will be a presumption of undue influence.
The estate would then have to prove there was no undue influence in order to stop the will being adjusted.
If you suspect undue influence has occurred, contact our Will Contest attorneys as soon as possible.
If You Suspect Fraud
Similarly, some people may contest a will in Florida if they believe fraudulent behavior has occurred.
There are two types of fraudulent wills – Fraud in the Execution and Fraud in the Inducement.
Fraud in the execution is when the will creator has been tricked into thinking they were signing something else. Or that the document was not legally binding.
Fraud in the Inducement occurs when the will creator has been intentionally misled by a ‘material fact’, which caused them to make a different choice than they would have otherwise.
Fraud is a serious allegation, but one that should be taken very seriously if you suspect it. Please contact our Florida Will Contest attorneys so we can review your circumstances and provide expert guidance.
If The Will Creator Was Not of ‘Sound Mind’
The will creator must have a ‘sound mind’. That means they must have the mental competency to understand the effects of their choices in the will.
Proving a lack of sound mind usually relies on the medical evidence of mental incapacities, such as dementia.
Another reason could be ‘insane delusion’. Which is described by the Florida Supreme Court as having a ‘fixed false belief without a hypothesis or foundation in reality’.
If you believe a will was not executed with the correct legal formalities, you likely can contest a will in Florida.
Florida Statute 732.502 states:
- The testator (will creator) must sign it.
- The will creator must be in the presence of two witnesses.
- The will creator must acknowledge the signing to the witnesses.
If you suspect any of these formalities weren’t completed, ensure you contact our Florida Will Contest attorneys as soon as possible.
Scenario Examples of Will Contests in Florida
Let’s imagine Grandma left a will that included three grandchildren.
But what if she had a fourth grandchild years after she wrote her will and never updated it?
As an heir-at-law, Grandchild number four or their parents could make a claim, if they can show that Grandma didn’t intentionally mean to cut her grandchild out of the will.
The court would likely review the case and determine that Grandma never got round to updating her will before dying, so grandchild number four was accidentally left out.
Let’s imagine Mr. Florida has a serious illness, with months of painful medical treatment. His strong painkillers leave him disoriented and confused.
His son regularly helps arrange medical appointments while his daughter lives out of state.
His son informs Mr. Florida that if he doesn’t update his will to give his son his house, he will refuse to help anymore.
Naturally, Mr. Florida is vulnerable and desperate so he changes his will to agree to his son’s requests. He dies, and his daughter finds out about the unexpected changes to will.
She makes a will contest, filing for undue influence. A judge determines the presumption of undue influence and invalidates the will.
Mrs. Law died without a will. In the initial weeks after her death, her sister says she found the will, which gives the 90% of the estate to herself.
However, her son has a problem with this and suspects something is wrong – he was supposed to have much more than a share of the remaining 10% if there was no will. His mother told him this.
He asks his Florida Will Contest Attorney to challenge the will as fraud. Later, a handwriting expert is used and testifies that the signature is not Mrs. Law’s.
During a hearing, evidence is presented and the court judge finds the Will to be fraudulent and that Mrs. Law never signed it.
Contact a Will Contest Attorney in Florida
If you or any other beneficiaries believe foul play has occurred in the creation of a will, or you believe you’ve been unfairly excluded, then you should contact a Florida Will Attorney as soon as possible.
You need strong legal standing and experience to successfully file a claim with the correct documentation, before 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.