A final will and testament is an important document meant to accurately convey an individual’s wishes for the division of his or her property after death. As such, the court system tends to uphold a will’s contents as closely as possible.
However, there are a variety of reasons that a will may not be binding. In addition to procedural issues, such as a lack of witnesses or improper drafting, someone may have unduly influenced the individual making the will, or he or she may have lacked the mental capacity to make an informed decision. Here is a quick overview of the most common reasons for a contested will.
Lack of appropriate witnesses
According to Florida wills law, at least two witnesses must be present when the creator of the will signs the document. Unlike some other states, Florida probate law does not specify that witnesses cannot also be beneficiaries of the will, but these witnesses must be of sound mind and at least 18 years of age.
The existence of multiple, successive wills
In some cases, individuals may make multiple wills over the course of their lifetime. If an executor tries to carry out an older document, that version may be invalid if a more recent, legally binding will surfaces during the probate proceedings.
Lack of mental capacity on the part of the testator
In cases where individuals suffer from substance abuse, senility, dementia or some other lack of mental capacity, they may not have the presence of mind required by the law to enact a will. In this type of situation, a challenge to a will must show that the individual did not understand the scope or consequences of signing the document.
The presence of undue influence
Elderly persons are especially vulnerable to manipulation by others, sometimes even by family or friends. From inappropriately convincing a testator to divide his or her estate in a certain way to outright fraud or forgery, undue influence is a serious charge that may render a will partially or wholly invalid.