Will Contests

Will Contests in Texas Explained by a Will Contest Lawyer

In some cases, there can be circumstances when a will is not executed properly. When this happens, the will may need to be formally contested in order to make sure the estate is administered as intended by the decedent. This is why it is important to hire a skilled will contest attorney.

Who Is Allowed to Contest a Will?

Legally in the state of Texas, any “person interested” in a particular estate can contest a Will in probate court.

You can find the definition of the term “interested” in section 22.018 of the Texas Estates Code.  In short, it says that an “interested” party means anyone whose rights in the estate will be affected by the defeat or probate of the will.  This strictly has to do with monetary interest, and does not include sentimental or other relations. A will contest attorney can help you navigate this.

Forfeiture or No-Contest Clauses

In some cases, wills can include a no-contest clause.  A no-contest or forfeiture clause states that a person’s rights in the estate are forfeited if they pursue court action, such as a suit to contest or modify a will.

When a will includes a forfeiture clause and a person pursues court action, they will have to show, by a preponderance of the evidence, that there is just cause for bringing the action to the court. They also have to prove that the action was brought in good faith. The person is risking complete forfeiture of their right in the estate if they fail to show just cause and good faith.

In general, Texas courts don’t often enforce forfeiture clauses if the challenge is successful. However, this kind of clause can be problematic if the will contest is unsuccessful.  It is imperative to check if the will includes a no-contest clause before moving forward with a contest. One should also consult with a probate attorney so they can be aware of the legal ramification of any such clause.  

Grounds for Contesting a Will

When a person files to reform or contest a will, they must make an affirmative statement in a court.  The purpose of this statement is to plead the grounds on which they are making the challenge. A will contest lawyer can guide you through this process.

In Texas, the following grounds are considered for contesting a will:

  1. Revocation: Has the will been previously revoked or is in considered invalid? A will can be revoked either by the execution of a subsequent will or by a physical act (for example: being shredded by the decedent).
  2. Lack of Testamentary Capacity: If a person has insufficient mental ability at the time of execution, the will may be rendered invalid.
  3. Improper Execution: It is possible to have grounds to contest a will if the will was not executed properly, although this is not very common. Below, you will find a few items to look for when determining if a will was legally executed:
    • Was the will notarized?
    • Was the will signed by two witnesses in the presence of the decedent?
    • Were additional pages added to the will after it was finalized?
    • Were the signatures of the decedent or witnesses forged?
  4. Undue Influence: If the decedent was under a significant amount of influence from another person at the time a will was executed, the will can be considered invalid. How do you know if a will was executed under undue influence? The following questions are a good place to start:  
    • Did an influence exist and was it exerted?
    • Did the influencer overpower or undermine the mind of the decedent at the time they signed the documents?
    • Without this influence, would the decedent not have signed the document?

When and Where Should one File a Will Contest?

When filing a contest, it must be filed in the court where the application to probate the will was filed. Most of the time, this will be the county court where the decedent resided at the time of death. A will contest attorney can help you with this.

While a will contest can be filed before or after the will has been admitted to probate, it is important to note the differences:

  1. Before Probate: If the will has not been admitted to probate, the contest can be filed anytime after an application to probate has begun. However, this must be done before the court rules on it.
  2. After Probate: The contest must generally be filed within two years after the date the will was admitted to probate. A contest can be filed after the two-year statute of limitations has expired in some cases.

Hire an Experienced Probate Attorney

Do you need help with a probate matter in Dallas-metro area or the surrounding communities?  Hire a skilled will contest attorney. We are experienced probate attorneys who represent clients with sensitive probate matters.  If so, please give us a call us at (469) 895-4333 or use the contact form below to see how we can help.