When a person dies in Pennsylvania and has a will to distribute his or her estate, the will is sent to the Register of Wills in the county where the person passed away. However, before the estate is distributed, a person with standing can contest the validity of the will if he or she has the proper grounds. Pennsylvania only allows certain arguments for contesting a will, so it is important to understand your legal options if you wish to fight a will you believe is improper in some way. Hiring an estate planning attorney can significantly help in contesting a will in Pennsylvania, and if you wish to learn more, you should contact one in your area today.
Who can Contest a Will
A person must have standing in order to contest a will in Pennsylvania. This means that the person must be able to prove in court that they will suffer actual harm if the will distributes the estate as written. Most often, a person has standing if they are a family member, but non-family members can also contest a will if they were left a piece of the estate in older wills and believe that they were improperly left out of the current will as it is written.
Grounds for Contesting a Will
There are four main grounds for contesting a will in Pennsylvania. The burden of proof is on the person contesting the will, and they must present significant evidence to the court to prove their claims. The first ground is diminished capacity, where the testator, or person who created the will, did not possess the mental capacity to create the will and did not know what he or she was doing at the time the will was signed. This is the most common grounds for contesting a will when the deceased suffered from dementia at the time the will was signed. The next ground is undue influence, where the will would not have been created but for the undue influence of another person in the testator’s life. Oftentimes, this person is a caretaker or distant family member that wishes to pressure the testator into receiving a piece of the estate.
The third ground for contesting a will in Pennsylvania is fraud, forgery, or failure to properly prepare the will. This includes issues of forging the testator’s signature, tricking the deceased into signing the will, and other issues of fraud. The last ground for contesting a will is if the will violates another binding contract. For example, the will may be invalidated if it can be proven that a written contract exists exchanging part of the estate for caregiving and medical care that is not included in the will.
Contact a Lawyer Today
If you wish to contest a will in Pennsylvania, an experienced estate planning attorney will be able to discuss your legal options as well as determine if you have standing and grounds to contest the will. Call or contact a lawyer in your area today to learn more.