What Must You Prove to Contest a Will?

Introduction

When someone dies, their will is supposed to be a clear document that lays out how their estate should be distributed. However, there are times when the will is contested – usually because someone believes that it’s not valid. If you find yourself in this situation in Texas, there are certain things that you must be able to prove in order to have the will overturned. In this blog post, we will explore what those things are and how you can go about proving them. We also provide a Texas case study.

The grounds for contesting a will in Texas

If you want to contest a will in Texas, you must have grounds to do so. The most common grounds for contesting a will are:

-The will was not properly executed. This means that it wasn’t signed by the person who made it, or that it wasn’t witnessed by two people as required by law.

-The person who made the will lacked mental capacity. This means that they didn’t understand what they were doing when they made the will, or that they were under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

-The will was procured by fraud or duress. This means that someone tricked the person into making the will, or threatened them into doing so.

-There is a more recent will that revokes the one being contested.

If you have grounds to contest a will, you should speak to an experienced attorney about your case.

The types of evidence that may be used in a will contest

There are a few different types of evidence that may be used in a will contest. One type of evidence is the testimony of witnesses. This can include testimony from people who were present when the will was signed, or from people who knew the testator (the person who made the will) before they died. Another type of evidence that may be used is written documentation, such as letters or diary entries from the testator. This type of evidence can be helpful in proving that the testator was of sound mind when they made their will, and that they knew what they were doing. Finally, physical evidence can also be used in a will contest. This could include things like handwriting analysis or DNA testing.

Probate Law Case Study

Abrams v. Ross’ Estate, 250 S.W. 1019 (Tex. Comm’n App. 1923)

Plea in abatement:

A plea used to allege facts outside of the original petition. This plea often provides reasons for why the case should not proceed further or should be dismissed.

Background & Procedural History

George Tennille and his wife, formerly Sarah Tennille, owned a portion of land in Brazoria County as community property to their estate. Mr. Tennille sold a portion of the property during his lifetime. After Mr. Tennille’s death in 1850, Mrs. Tennille remarried a man with the last name Ross, then she died as Mrs. Ross in 1872. Mr. Tennille and Mrs. Ross (Decedent) were survived by their child, George C. Tennille, who took charge of their estates. Both Mr. Tennille and Decedent left their estates to George C. Tennille. George C. Tennille left a will under which he devised his estate to his son, Tom C. Tennille. Considerable uncertainty existed about when and who probated George C. Tennille’s will.

Around this time, Harriet Tennille Griffin and others (Proponents) filed an application to probate the will of Decedent. W.H. Abrahams and others (Contestants) opposed the application, and, as a basis for their interest in Mrs. Ross’ estate, they all claimed they were entitled to certain portions of the tract of land mentioned above. Proponents moved the court to compel Contestants to provide evidence of their interest in Mrs. Ross’s estate, which the court overruled. After hearing Contestants’ plea in abatement and general demurrer, the court dismissed the proceedings. Proponent appealed, and the Court of Civil Appeals reversed the judgment, and remanded the cause. The Court instructed the trial court to hear: (1) testimony for the probate of the will; and (2) testimony related to the question of whether Contestants’ interest in the estate would enable them to contest the probate of the will. Contestants applied for a writ of error, which was granted by the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Court of Civil Appeals. The Court stated that the trial court dismissed the proceedings based on Contestants who had not sufficiently established their rights to oppose the will’s probate when demanded to do so. In addition, the Court stated that proponents of a will bear the burden to show a timely application of a will for probate, and that here, Proponents would be allowed to do so in another proceeding.

The Takeaway

Abrams v. Ross’ Estate shows that the contestants of a will’s application for probate must provide adequate evidence of their right to contest a will in order to proceed in a case.

Conclusion

If you are considering contesting a will in Texas, it is important to understand the grounds on which you can do so. The burden of proof is high, and you must be able to show that the will was not validly executed or that the testator lacked testamentary capacity. With the help of an experienced probate attorney, you can ensure that your rights are protected and that your case is given a fair hearing.

The importance of having an Experienced Probate Attorney

When a will is contested, it means that someone is challenging the validity of the will. In order to contest a will in Texas, you must be able to prove that the will was not validly executed. This can be done by showing that the testator (the person who made the will) did not have the mental capacity to do so, or that they were coerced into making the will.

If you are thinking about contesting a will, it is important to have an experienced probate attorney on your side. Probate attorneys understand the complexities of wills and estate law, and can help you navigate the legal process. Call us today for a FREE attorney consultation. (512) 273-7444.

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On what grounds can a will be challenged?

There are several grounds on which a will may be contested in Texas. These include:

1. Lack of testamentary capacity – The testator must have the mental capacity to understand the nature and effect of their will at the time it is executed. If they do not, the will may be declared invalid.

2. Undue influence – If the testator was coerced or manipulated into making certain provisions in their will, those provisions may be invalidated.

3. Fraud – If the will was created through fraud, such as by forged signatures or false statements, it may be found to be invalid.

4. Duress – If the testator was forced to sign the will under duress, such as through threats or violence, the will may be found to be invalid.

5. Mistake – If there is a mistake in the will, such as an incorrect name or amount, that provision may be invalidated. However, this does not apply if the mistake was apparent on the face of the document and the testator still signed it knowingly and willingly.

What is the criteria for contesting a will?

In order to contest a will in Texas, you must be able to prove that the will was not validly executed. This means that you must be able to show that the will was not signed by the testator (the person who made the will) in front of two witnesses, or that the witnesses did not properly sign the will.

If you are contesting a will because you believe that the testator was not of sound mind when he or she made the will, you must be able to show that the testator did not understand what he or she was doing when they made the will. This can be difficult to do, as it requires proving that the testator did not know what property they owned, who their family members were, etc.

If you are contesting a will because you believe that the testator was unduly influenced by someone else when making the will, you must be able to show that there was someone else who exerted significant pressure on the testator to make a will that benefited them at your expense with undue influence. This can be difficult to do, as undue influence often requires proving what was in the testator’s mind at the time they made the Will.

What voids a will in Texas? Is there a special clause?

In Texas, a will can be voided if it is not properly executed, if the testator was not of sound mind at the time of execution, or if the will was procured by fraud or duress. If a will is void, it is as if the will never existed and the estate will be distributed according to the laws of intestate succession.

Who can challenge a will in Texas?

In order to challenge a will in Texas, the person contesting the will must be an “interested party,” such as an heir or beneficiary of the deceased person. Additionally, the person challenging the will must be able to prove that they would have inherited under the deceased person’s previous will if it had not been changed.

How long do you have to contest a will?

If you want to contest a will in Texas, you must be an interested party. An interested party is someone who would inherit under the will if it were found to be invalid (beneficiary of a will). You must also file your contest within a certain time frame.

In Texas, the timeframe for contesting a will is two years from the date of the decedent’s death. This is known as the statute of limitations. If you do not file your contest within this timeframe, you will not be able to have the will declared invalid.

There are some exceptions to this rule. If the person who made the will was under 18 years old at the time of their death, or if the will was never properly signed, then you have four years from the date of death to file your contest.

If you have any questions about whether you can contest a will in Texas as a beneficiary of a will, or about how to do so, you should speak with an experienced probate attorney.

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