The death of a loved one initiates a period of grieving. Unfortunately, this stress is rendered even more difficult by pressing legal matters that must be dealt with in order to fairly distribute your loved one’s assets. The harsh reality is that will contests among family members or – other interested parties – can and do arise. And when they do, they hit hard, because they hit at a time when everyone is emotional and vulnerable. This can turn a time of grieving into a time of utter turmoil, and that’s difficult for everyone involved making it important that a wills attorney is consulted.
In many cases it may be alleged that the will is invalid because it is a forgery, or because it failed to comply with legal formalities. This is particularly likely if the will was executed in another state but is being probated in Texas. In other cases, the allegation may be that your loved one lacked the mental capacity to dispose of his assets, or that the will failed to reflect his true intentions.
Finding Your Way Out of the Probate Maze
Probate law is notoriously complex, and it becomes even more complex the moment a dispute arises. This complexity is not limited to legal dimensions. You may harbor serious concerns about the wisdom of protracted litigation, particularly if the will’s beneficiaries need money quickly or if family relations are deteriorating because of the dispute.
At Romano & Sumner, we have seen all of this before, and you have our sympathies. If you so choose, however, we offer more than just our sympathies. We offer our decades of combined experience in resolving will contests in a manner that optimizes both your financial interests and the personal concerns that inevitably arise when a loved one has passed.
We are Not a Faceless Megafirm
As a small firm, we can guarantee you personalized attention.
- We will not delegate your case to a lightly supervised junior associate like most large law firms routinely do.
- We will return your phone calls within one business day.
- We will keep you up-to-date on the progress of your case.
- We will complete your case in a timely manner.
These are our duties, and we undertake them with utmost seriousness.
Are You Involved in a Will Contest? Now is the Time to Contact Our Driven Attorneys
It is said that the glue of circumstances hardens quickly around your feet. If you are involved in a will contest, or if you anticipate such a dispute arising, you need to act as quickly as possible to prepare for the storm that is likely to follow.
Contact the estate contest attorneys at Romano & Sumner at your earliest convenience to schedule a free initial consultation, where we can learn about your case and discuss your options with you. Call us today.
Do any of these scenarios sound familiar?
- Mother with Alzheimer’s or Dementia signed a new will just weeks before she died leaving everything to one child while cutting out other children who were included under a prior will. (See below – Lack of Testamentary Capacity).
- Daughter falsely claims that her brother has been stealing from their father causing father to change his will in favor of daughter. (See below – Fraud in the Inducement).
- After father’s death sister produces a recently signed will that cuts out other children with a signature that looks suspicious. (See below – Fraud).
- One child takes over caring for a parent at the end of parent’s life, prevents other children from visiting parent, and then produces a will after parent’s death that leaves everything to the caregiver child. (See below – Undue Influence).
- Son who lives close to mother manipulates mother into changing her will to cut out other children who live farther away by threatening to stop caring for mother. (See below – Undue Influence).
If your answer is yes, then the Sugar Land estate and will contest attorneys at Romano and Sumner are here to provide you with guidance. Continue reading for a more in-depth discussion of how to contest a will in Texas.
Who Can Contest a Will in Texas?
Any “interested” person may contest the probate of a will. An Interested Person is defined in Texas to include:
- Heirs (generally children or grandchildren of a deceased child),
- Devisees (someone who is named as a beneficiary in a will),
- Spouses, or
- Any other person or entity having a property right in or claim against the estate.
For more information on whether you can contest a will, contact our dedicated will contest attorneys at Romano & Sumner.
How do you Contest a Will in Texas?
The contesting party files what is called a “will contest” which challenges the will by alleging one or more grounds that make the will invalid.
On what Grounds can you Contest a Will in Texas?
Challenging a will in Texas is generally accomplished under one of the following theories:
- Revocation by Physical Act: The testator may revoke a will by some physical act such as tearing the will in half.
- Revocation by Subsequent Instrument: The testator may revoke a will by executing another document that qualifies as a will or simply by signing a document that states that he or she is revoking the will.
- Lack of Testamentary Capacity: If the testator did not have sufficient “testamentary capacity” at the time the will was executed, the will is void. Generally, at the time the will was executed, the testator must have 1) understood he or she was signing a will, 2) understood that the will was a legal document that gave instructions for distribution of the testator’s assets upon death (and understood the plan), 3) understood the general nature and extent of the testator’s property, and 4) known who were his or her next of kin (family).
- Lack of Due Execution: There are certain statutory formalities that must be met when executing a will (e.g., the will may not have been properly witnessed or signed).
- Undue Influence: The will may be challenged if the testator executed the will as a result of undue influence (e.g., one child pressures the testator to sign a will leaving everything to them and nothing to the testator’s other children).
- Fraud: This includes the forging of the testator’s or witnesses’ signatures. It also includes the substitution of pages after the signing of the will.
- Fraud in the Inducement: When someone changes their will based on lies told to them by another person (usually about the beneficiaries of the prior will) then the will has been “induced” by fraud and may be challenged on this ground.
- Mistake: This includes situations where the testator did not know he or she was signing a will.
If you need help determining the grounds on which you should contest a will, contact our will contest lawyers at Romano & Sumner for advice on your specific case.
When can a Will be Contested in Texas and how long do I have to file a will contest?
In addition to filing a contest before a will is admitted to probate, a contestant may file a will contest within two years after the will has been admitted to probate.
How Much does it Cost to Contest a Will?
Our will contest attorneys handle the contest of wills on both an hourly and contingency fee basis.
- Hourly Fee – If our firm handles your will contest on an hourly fee basis then you pay for our services on an hourly rate. You will also be responsible for paying for expenses as those expenses are incurred.
- Contingency Fee – If your will contest is handled on a contingency fee basis then you agree to share a percentage of any recovery with our firm; however, you do not pay unless we collect. Each case is different so call us to get an estimate on what it might cost to represent you in your particular situation.
No Contest Clauses
Prior to contesting the will, a contestant should examine the will in question to determine whether it contains a “no contest” clause. If the will does contain a no contest clause, the contestant should evaluate what impact the no contest clause will have on his or her inheritance should the contest prove unsuccessful (e.g., complete forfeiture of any inheritance). The Texas will contest lawyers at Romano and Sumner can assist you with this evaluation. For a free initial consultation with experienced Sugar Land will contest legal team who can advise you on contesting a will in Texas, please call us or contact our Houston law offices.