Can I Contest a Will If It Is Fraudulent?

December 7, 2023
West Chester Estate Lawyers at Eckell Sparks Can Help With Estate Planning After a Major Life Event

The grief associated with a loved one’s passing can be worsened when there are disagreements about the deceased’s final wishes. Contesting a will for fraud is a sensitive, complex legal matter and a serious undertaking.

Fraudulent wills can take different forms, like forged signatures and deceptive practices that manipulate the testator (the person who made the will). Anyone with a stake in the testator’s estate may contest a will for fraud, including family members and creditors.

Someone hoping to contest a will on the grounds of fraud must gather evidence to support the claim. It can include medical records, witness testimony, or other proof that shows the testator’s mental state when they created the will. As for forged signatures, a handwriting expert may need to be consulted. With the right evidence, the person or parties contesting the will can allege that the testator:

  • Did not follow the state laws or procedures to execute the will.
  • Was manipulated by another party to write the will in a certain way.
  • Lacked the capacity to execute the will due to dementia, insanity, or another issue.
  • Made a mistake regarding the amount of property they owned, thought a close relative was deceased, or another error.
  • Was misled by someone who intentionally misrepresented essential information in order to have an advantage.

What if There Is More Than One Will?

A testator might create a new will to supersede a previous one, but careless drafting causes complications. New wills should specify that they replace old ones to prevent disputes. Courts typically enforce the most recently signed and dated will, but laws vary from state to state.

How Can I Contest a Will for Fraud?

 If you suspect fraud or have other concerns about a will, it makes sense to work with a lawyer. The attorney will need evidence to prove fraud and can create a formal complaint. That document includes your information, the testator’s information, and an explanation for the will contest. The attorney can write the complaint and file it with the court clerk.

Once the complaint gets filed, it is served to the involved parties with details about a probate hearing. They have the right to respond, and there may be a motion to dismiss the claim and hearing. When that happens, the judge may move the claim to litigation.

In litigation, there are interrogatories where parties respond to questions in writing; essential documents are also requested and reviewed. Witnesses may be interviewed under oath. If the will contest is not resolved, it may go to trial.

A Delaware County Wills and Estate Lawyer at Eckell Sparks Can Answer Your Questions About Contesting a Fraudulent Will

If you need legal advice about a will, a Delaware County wills and estate lawyer at Eckell, Sparks, Levy, Auerbach, Monte, Sloane, Matthews & Auslander, P.C. can help. Call us at 610-565-3701 or contact us online to schedule a consultation. Located in Media and West Chester, Pennsylvania, we serve clients in Delaware County, Chester County, and Montgomery County.