In most cases, the reading of a will of a loved one who has recently passed is an uneventful affair. Oftentimes, a loved one will tell friends and family what to expect prior to their passing or will distribute estate assets according to the state law. However, there are some situations in which a will does not distribute the estate as expected, leaves family members out entirely, or distributes less than what is expected to certain people. If this has occurred to you in Maryland, you may have standing to challenge the will. An experienced probate attorney can review the facts of your case to determine whether you have grounds to contest the will in your situation.
Lack of Mental Capacity
With our elderly loved ones living longer than ever, we are seeing more cases of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. If this is the case in your family, your loved one may have lacked the mental capacity to create a will. Having a lack of mental capacity means that the deceased was unable to understand that he or she was creating a will, comprehend what assets were being given away, and to whom those assets were being given. In order to have the mental capacity to write a will, a person must have knowledge of all three elements and understand them in relation to one another. If your loved one lacked the mental capacity to write a will but did so anyway, that document could be set aside and replaced by an earlier version of the will. The estate can also be distributed according to your state’s intestacy laws.
Another ground for challenging a will in Maryland is the effect of undue influence on a will. This occurs when a caregiver, friend, family member, or other close person to your loved one effectively supplants the will of the deceased with his or her own wishes for the distribution of the estate. It cannot be enough that a person suggests an alteration of the will – it must be shown that the deceased’s desires for the estate were completely overcome by the undue influence of this person.
Fraud or Forgery
A third ground for challenging a will is that the will was produced through fraud or forgery. This can include removing pages of the will or exchanging certain pages for fake ones. A will can also be produced through fraud if it is hidden in a stack of papers your loved one was asked to sign without realizing what he or she was doing.
The last ground for a will challenge in Maryland is on procedural issues. State law has strict guidelines for what constitutes a valid will, including that the person was at least 18 years old, attested and signed by two witnesses, be in writing, and signed by your loved one. If the will failed in one of these procedural aspects, it can be deemed invalid and set aside.
Call or Contact a Probate Attorney Now
To learn more about whether you have grounds to challenge a will in Maryland. Contact Nusinov Smith Law Firm to learn more.