Several highly publicized fights over celebrity estates have garnered attention in recent years.
Robin Williams’ wife and children fought over his personal items following his death. When Prince died without a will, many people came forward claiming to be a blood relative in hopes they could get a share of his estate. Several members of Michael Jackson’s family accused two executors of his will of coercing his mother, Katherine, as well as mishandling his business deals. Julian Lennon (John Lennon’s son with his first wife, Cynthia) challenged his father’s will and settled with Yoko Ono.
Contesting a will is not only for the rich and famous.
Whether you were excluded from a will or your loved one died without one, an attorney knowledgeable in estate law can help you understand possible steps if you have grounds to make a claim on the estate.
At The Springer Law Firm, our founding attorney Sarah Springer has extensive experience in estate planning and probate. Schedule a consultation by calling (281) 990-6025.
Grounds for Contesting a Will in Texas
A will can be challenged in the Lone Star State by any “interested party” but certain scenarios more often lead to disputes. If one child is treated differently in the will than their siblings, if sudden changes are made to the will, or if the decedent marries someone shortly before their death are all situations making a confrontation more likely.
Feeling short-changed by a family member or loved one is not grounds to sue.
The following are allowable reasons to contest a will:
- Will was improperly executed
- Decedent was under undue influence when they executed the will
- Will was revoked by the creation of another will or otherwise previously revoked by the decedent (testator)
- Testator did not have the mental capacity to make the will
- Will was executed based on a lie or was forged
Time Limits to Dispute a Will
When a probate court in Texas receives a will, a notice is posted at the courthouse and sets in motion a two-week waiting period. If a challenge to the will is made during the waiting period, the probate process is stopped. After the waiting period, Texas law states that any interested person has up to two years after the will was admitted to probate, except in cases challenging the will based on fraud or forgery. In these cases, the two-year window begins on the date the fraud was discovered.
What Is Probate?
Probate is a legal proceeding used to distribute a decedent’s assets. Not all assets are required to go through probate. Accounts that are payable on death (checking accounts, savings accounts, certificates of deposit), transfers on death (stocks, bonds, retirement accounts), and community property inherited by the surviving spouse do not have to go through probate.
Probate can take about six months for simple wills. Contested wills and lost wills can be in the probate process for years.
A will must be submitted to probate within four years of the person’s death. If that does not happen, Texas intestate succession laws are used to determine how assets are allocated.
Will Isn’t Always the Final Word
Family and business connections are often complicated. Unfortunately, people can be manipulated into creating or changing a will. The death of someone is an emotional time and can exacerbate already-strained relationships.
A skilled attorney with experience in presenting a strong argument before the court is critical. A sound strategy and demonstration of the contest grounds can help improve the chances of success.
If you believe you have grounds to challenge a will, contact us today using our online form or by calling (281) 990-6025.