Florida Will Contests
How can I contest a Florida Will?
There are several grounds for which a Florida Will can be contested. In order to contest a Florida Will a formal complaint or objection must be filed in the probate division of the circuit civil court having proper jurisdiction over the Decedent’s estate. The claims against the Will must contain facts which set forth the elements of the various causes of action that a Florida probate judge can rely upon to determine that an executed Will should be set aside, declared invalid and unenforceable, or requires partial revocation.
There are crucial filing deadlines associated with the manner in which you contest the Will. Many of these fairly short deadlines, if missed, could forever bar you from contesting the validity of the Will. The deadlines associated with filing objections or complaints to contest a Will, depend on the type of notice you receive, or should have received, whether you’re a known or ascertainable creditor, or you are an interested person as defined by the Florida Probate Rules, including spouses, lineal heirs, children, named devisees of prior Wills, etc. Please contact a Florida Probate Litigation Attorney at the Law Offices of Christopher P. Taylor, P.A. if you have any questions regarding the deadlines associated with contesting a Florida Will or to determine whether you are an interested person that is entitled to notice and an opportunity to contest a Florida Will.
The following grounds exist for contesting a Florida Will:
1. Lack of Testamentary Capacity claims are made when the Decedent lacked testamentary capacity at the time the Will was executed. A Will can be determined invalid if the Decedent, as a result of age, some infirmity or due to suffering an insane delusion at the moment of execution, they were incapable of understanding the true nature of the Will, lacked a general understanding of their assets and natural objects of affection such as spouses, children, or grandchildren., or were incapable of understanding the effect of their decision to execute the Will.
2. Undue Influence claims are raised in many Florida Will Contests and occur when the Decedent is unduly influenced by a caretaker, often a relative, or someone they trusted or relied upon during a time of need. Usually the decedent is vulnerable due to a physical or mental disability or is in decline due to ageing or a medical condition, and in need of assistance with various day-to-day living activities. They become reliant on others and trust them to provide them with the care or assistance they need. The Decedent becomes over-persuaded, pressured, coerced or feels under duress to execute the Will while not of their own free will. Usually the resulting Will has terms that benefit the person of influence.
The person contesting the Will due to undue influence has the burden to establish the presumption of undue influence, by showing the influencer:
- is a substantial beneficiary under the Will
- occupied a confidential relationship to the decedent, and
- was “active” in procuring the Will
3. Mistake of Fact is a claim made in Will contests when a Decedent executes a Will based on a mistaken belief that the Will contained terms which were not as intended due to having either been poorly drafted or failed to provides for something which the Decedent clearly had not intended, had not reasonably foreseen or due to poor drafting did not clearly reflect the known true intentions of the testator. Florida Statute §732.615 (“Reformation to correct mistakes”), allows for modification of a Florida Will where a mistake of fact or law needs to be corrected in the written Will. This Florida law can be used by beneficiaries of a Will in instances where a specific gift in the Last Will and Testament is a mistake; such a situation may arise with regards to the amount of a specific bequest which should have been known by the drafting attorney but was a mistake as drafted in the final form or as the Decedent had believed was included. The law is designed to provide fair remedies and solutions for families and loved ones damaged as a result of these mistakes.
4. Improper Execution claims arise when a Florida Will is not properly executed with the formalities required under Florida law. The testator must sign the Will or direct someone to sign in the presence of two (2) disinterested, attesting witnesses and a legal notary. The witness, testator or notary cannot be in the bathroom or even the room next door, but all must actually see each other sign the Will. If not executed properly a Will can be set aside or denied admission to probate as being invalid. Determining the circumstances behind the execution can be difficult to determine without extensive discovery performed by a Florida probate litigation attorney experienced in obtaining the necessary records, and asking the right questions of the appropriate witnesses through depositions.
5. Fraud occurs when The Decedent was fraudulently induced to execute the will. The Decedent may have been convinced that what they were signing was something it wasn’t , or because the decedent executed the Will based on false representations made by someone who knew the decedent would believe them and who then benefits from the Will instead of who would have received a distribution but for the fraud.
If you believe you are being denied an inheritance as a result of an improper or unenforceable Will, aren’t sure about the deadlines for contesting the Will, or have general concerns regarding whether your Florida Will can be contested contact a Florida Probate Litigation and Florida Will Contest Attorney at The Law Offices of Christopher P. Taylor, P.A.. today.