Pylant Estate Law, LLC

Will Contests in AL

Contesting a Will · Huntsville, Alabama

A will contest is a legal action that challenges the validity of a will. In Alabama, will contests can arise for the following reasons:

  • Lack of Testamentary Capacity
  • The Will was Produced by Undue Influence
  • Legal Technicalities
  • Fraud

Legal Requirements

To contest a will in Alabama, the contestant must have legal standing to file the will contest. This means that the contestant must be an heir at law (he or she would have inherited if the Decedent did not have a Will), or an interested party, such as a beneficiary or potential beneficiary under a prior Will. Additionally, the challenger must have a valid legal basis for contesting the will, such as lack of testamentary capacity, undue influence, legal technicalities, or fraud.

Will Contests in Probate Court vs. Circuit Court:

A will contest may be filed in probate court before the will is admitted to probate or in circuit court if the will has already been admitted to probate. Ala. Code § 43-8-198. If the will contest is filed in circuit court, it must be filed within six months from the date the will was admitted to probate. A small number of probate courts (none in North Alabama) have equity jurisdiction and the rules regarding will contests in probate court are different. A will contest with a judgment from the probate court can be appealed to the circuit court.

Grounds for Contesting a Will

One of the grounds for contesting a will in Alabama is fraud. This occurs when the testator, or the person who created the will, was deceived or misled into signing a will that does not accurately reflect their wishes. Another example would be if someone forged the testator's signature on a will or convinced the testator to sign a document that he or she thought was something else, this could constitute fraud.

Undue influence is a common ground for contesting a will in Alabama. Undue Influence occurs when someone exerts pressure or control over the testator to the point where the testator's free will is compromised. For example, if a caregiver or family member convinces the testator to change their will in favor of that person by manipulation or exploitation, this could constitute undue influence.

Lack of testamentary capacity is another ground for contesting a will. This occurs when the testator did not have the mental capacity to understand the nature and extent of their property or the consequences of their actions at the time the will was executed. For example, if the testator was suffering from severe dementia or was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time the will was signed, this could constitute lack of testamentary capacity.

A Will must also meet certain legal technicalities in order to be admitted to Probate Court. A will must have at least two witnesses to be valid; it doesn’t have to be notarized, but the notarization makes the Will self-proving.

Potential Outcomes of a Will Contest

If a will contest is successful in Alabama, the will may be declared invalid, and the court may either enforce a previous will or apply the statute of intestacy. Intestacy laws dictate how a person's assets are distributed if they die without a valid will. If the court determines that there is no valid previous will, the testator's assets will be distributed according to Alabama's intestacy laws.

If you are considering contesting a will or defending a will that has been challenged, it is important to work with an attorney who can guide you through the legal process.

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