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When can a will be contested?

Many Massachusetts residents would likely consider a will to be the most important estate planning document. In many cases, a last will and testament serves as the cornerstone of a comprehensive estate plan and provides directives for the distribution of an individual's property, assets and personal belongings.

Given the significance of a will, it's important that individuals who draft or amend a will seek help from an attorney who handles estate planning matters. At times, a decedent's family members may have questions or concerns about the contents of a will. In cases where family members or other interested parties question the validity of a will or believe that a loved one was coerced or forced to make amendments to an existing will or draft a new will, legal steps may be taken to contest a will.

A will contest may seek to challenge and invalidate all or only specific portions of a will. When contesting a will, a plaintiff must have specific legal grounds for doing so. This legal requirement prevents a disgruntled spouse or family member from taking action to contest a will merely for his or her own benefit.

Legal grounds for contesting a will include claims of fraud, forgery, undue influence and lack of testamentary capacity. For example, if a loved one was diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease prior to making changes to or drafting a will, interested parties who have a valid claim may seek to contest a will based on the claim that an individual lacked testamentary capacity. Additionally, a will may be contested if it's believed that an individual was unduly influenced or manipulated by another party with regard to a will's provisions.

Will contests are often complex and highly emotional cases. For these reasons, it's imperative to seek the advice and assistance of an attorney who has successfully handled similar probate litigation matters.

Source: FindLaw.com, "Reasons to Challenge a Will," June 19, 2015

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