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Lack of Testamentary Capacity May Support Massachusetts Will Contest

When a loved one dies, the passing of his or her property and wealth to survivors is stressful enough even when there are no questions about the decedent’s intentions or soundness of mind. But when someone doubts whether a will is valid and enforceable, a will contest can pit family members or close friends against one another in an uncomfortable position.

An interested person (heirs, beneficiaries, close relatives, persons named under previous wills, certain creditors and so on) may object to a will being probated in Massachusetts state court. The procedures controlling how a will is probated and contested are complicated. In order to be sure all deadline, notice and filing requirements are met, it can be important to retain an attorney with will contest experience as soon as possible after receiving notice that the will was filed otherwise you may be permanently foreclosed from challenging the will.

Because of the expense and anxiety (in some cases) of actually going to trial in a will contest, it may be beneficial to those involved to negotiate a settlement agreement in which they come to a compromise of the disputed issues related to the will, especially when the estate would be depleted by the costs of litigation.

In Massachusetts, an adult of “sound mind” may make a valid will. Soundness of mind is also called “testamentary capacity” or, in other words, the ability of the testator (person making a will) to understand at the time the will is executed what a will is for; what his or her property generally consists of; and who would logically have claims on the estate. For a will to be valid, the testator must not have been suffering from any delusion that would impact his or her understanding of the will process.

A person may actually be found to have been of sound mind at the time a will was executed, even if he or she has periods of mental incapacity, so long as his or her mind was clear at the time of execution.

Some of the other reasons a will may be contested include:

  • Improper execution such as improper signing or witnessing
  • Forgery such as when someone else improperly signed the testator’s name to the will
  • Fraud meaning that the testator was presented with false information upon which he or she relied to make decisions reflected in the will
  • Undue influence meaning that the testator was coerced to the point of losing his or her free will to make the choices in the will he or she wanted to make

Whether a person in Massachusetts wants to contest a will or is defending against a will challenge, he or she should seek early legal counsel from an experienced estate planning attorney with experience in the courtroom litigating issues of will validity.

From their office in Worcester, the attorneys of Christopher, Hays, Wojcik & Mavricos, LLP, have experience representing both sides in will contests as well as in a variety of estate and probate matters throughout Massachusetts.

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