Challenging the Validity of a Will in Pennsylvania
It is not uncommon, when a loved one has died, that one of the potential heirs to the estate is unhappy, and believes that the will does not accurately reflect the wishes of the deceased. There may be concerns that the decedent was suffering from Alzheimer’s when the will was executed, or that other members of the family exerted undue influence on the deceased. Pennsylvania law allows limited persons the right to contest or challenge the validity of a will.
Will Contests in Pennsylvania
The first requirement to file a will contest in Pennsylvania is what the law calls “standing.” In order to challenge the validity of a will, you must demonstrate to a court that you have something to gain or lose based on whether or not the will is determined to be valid. You must be able to make a reasonable claim that you should receive some benefit from the estate.
Once you have established standing, you must state a recognized basis for challenging the validity of the will—you must have legal grounds for a will contest. The grounds that are considered sufficient to challenge the validity of a will in Pennsylvania include:
- Mental capacity at the time the will was executed—The person executing the will must have understood what they were doing when they signed the will, i.e., they must have been “of sound mind” when they executed the will.
- Forgery—If you can demonstrate that the signature on the will is not that of the decedent, and that there was no power of attorney or guardianship in place at the time, you can challenge the will.
- Formality requirements—The will must be signed as prescribed by law. For example, if it is not signed at the end of the document, it may be invalid.
- Fraud—Can you show that the deceased person did not intend to execute the will and signed it because someone falsely represented it to be something other than a will?
- Undue influence—This can include threats, coercion or misrepresentation by another person, where the deceased signed the will against their wishes, but out of fear of or influence from another person.
Contact Our Office
At Halligan & Keaton, in Media, Pennsylvania, we have more than 60 years of combined legal experience. We provide a free initial consultation to every client. To discuss your estate planning needs with an experienced lawyer, call our office at 610-566-6030 or fill out our online intake form. We will travel to your home, a long-term care facility or the hospital to meet with you.