Dealing with the loss of a loved one is hard enough without the added tension of disputes over the deceased’s will. In Alabama, as with many other states, there’s a provision for contesting a will if certain parties believe there’s been foul play or discrepancies. This article aims to shed light on the process and considerations of will contests in the Yellowhammer State.
- What is a Will Contest?
A will contest is a legal challenge to the validity of a last will and testament. It’s not about disagreeing with how assets are distributed, but rather challenging the legitimacy of the entire document based on specific legal grounds.
- Who Can Contest a Will?
Not everyone has the legal right to challenge a will. Only “interested parties” can do so. This usually includes:
- Heirs-at-law: Individuals who would inherit under Alabama’s intestate succession laws if there were no will.
- Beneficiaries: Individuals or entities named in the will or a previous will.
- Grounds for Contesting a Will in Alabama
There are specific legal reasons to challenge a will, including:
- Lack of Testamentary Capacity: The claim that the deceased lacked the mental capability to understand the nature and consequences of their actions when the will was made.
- Undue Influence: Arguing that someone manipulated the deceased into drafting the will a certain way, overriding their actual wishes.
- Improper Execution: Alabama has strict rules about how a will should be signed and witnessed. If these aren’t followed, the will can be deemed invalid.
- Fraud or Forgery: Claiming that parts (or all) of the will were fraudulent or forged.
- The Process of Contesting a Will
File a Complaint: If you wish to challenge a will, you should get a local probate attorney to file a formal complaint with the probate court in the Alabama county where the deceased resided.
Notify Interested Parties: Once filed, all parties named in the will, as well as the executor, must be formally notified.
Court Proceedings: The probate court will hear evidence, which can include witness testimonies, expert opinions, and documented evidence.
Court Decision: After examining the evidence, the court will decide on the will’s validity. If deemed invalid, the court might revert to a previous will (if one exists) or apply Alabama’s intestacy laws.
- Time Constraints
In Alabama, will contests generally have to be filed within six months of the will being admitted to probate. It’s crucial to act promptly if you believe there’s a valid reason to challenge a will.
- The Toll of a Will Contest
Contesting a will can be both emotionally and financially draining. Before embarking on this path, weigh the emotional toll on family relationships, potential legal costs, and the possible outcomes. Sometimes mediation or open dialogue can help resolve issues without legal battles.
- Seek Expertise
Given the complexities involved in contesting a will, it’s recommended to seek the guidance of a probate or family law attorney familiar with Alabama’s laws. They can assess the situation, guide you on potential success chances, and navigate the legal intricacies.
While the last wishes expressed in a will should be honored, there are genuine circumstances where contesting becomes necessary. For Alabamians, understanding the grounds, processes, and implications of a will contest is essential. Proceed with caution, ensuring you’re acting in good faith and with a genuine belief in the will’s illegitimacy.
Attorney Steven A. Harris regularly blogs in the areas of family law, bankruptcy, probate, and real estate closings on this website. Mr. Harris tries to provide informative information to the public in easily digestible formats. Hopefully you enjoyed this article and feel free to supply feedback. We appreciate our readers & love to hear from you!