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What Is A Contested Will?


Article by Oren Ross

Photography by Oren Ross

A contested will is a will that is currently undergoing a legal dispute over its validity. When an heir or an interested party files a will contest, it means the legality of the will is being challenged because the will may not reflect the actual intent of the person who wrote it. Wills can only be contested by a spouse, children, or other people mentioned in the current will or in a previous will.

What Are the Grounds for Contesting a Will in Georgia?

If the will does not fulfill certain formalities, such as being in writing and signed by the testator in front of two or more competent witnesses, it can be contested due to lack of formality. A will can be also declared void if the testator is declared mentally incapacitated due to a previously diagnosed condition, such as dementia.

Another reason for a will contest is when the will is written under undue influence—when a child, spouse, or even a caregiver threatens or pressures the testator to change the estate plans in their favor. Finally, a will can be revoked directly by the testator.

What Should I Do if I Believe There Was Fraudulent Activity Involving the Will?

In Georgia, a will can be contested for fraud if there is enough proof that the testator was influenced to leave assets to a third party under false pretenses(i.e., a sibling or family member used untrue statements to influence the testator to take actions, such as leaving certain assets for them or removing a child from the will). This may constitute inducement and render a will invalid.

Another instance of fraud can occur if someone influenced the execution of a will and manipulated it on purpose with the intent of making it invalid. It can happen if an individual misguided the testator or witnesses during the signing of the will, resulting in improper signatures. It is also fraud when a will has been tampered with or has had pages removed or forged.

How Long Do I Have to Initiate a Will Contest in Georgia?

A will can be contested up to four years after probate is complete. It is important to highlight that a will contest is often a heated dispute that causes a high level of conflict among family members and may take one to two years to reach any kind of result. It is also important to make sure that the will contest makes sense financially because you can expect to spend at least ten to fifty thousand dollars or more in legal fees, and if the contest goes to trial, that price tag can be considerably higher.

Weighing the financial costs and the emotional toll of a will contest against the size of the estate and family relationship status is fundamental, because in certain cases, it is simply not worth the time, money, and conflicts. If you have reason to believe there was fraudulent activity during or after the creation of your loved one’s will, you should gather as much evidence as possible and contact an attorney to find out what needs to be done next. The legal team at Oren Ross & Associates is ready to answer all your estate planning & will questions. Give us a call at (404) 436-1752 to learn more.