The death of a loved one is unsettling as well as painful, even if it was expected. If those left behind must deal with the added stress of a contested will, the situation can become unbearable. At a time like this, you need a compassionate, experienced estate planning attorney to guide you through and provide you with skilled legal representation. 

If you are involved in a will contest in Virginia, contacting Randall J. Borden, Attorney at Law will bring you clarity and reassurance. If you want to ensure that your own will won’t be contested when you pass, he will help you create one that is tightly woven and reliable. 

Randall Borden has more than 30 years of successful experience assisting clients with creating strong wills and fighting will contests. You can depend on him to take all the necessary steps to protect you, your family, and your financial stability. Whether you are the person contesting the will or another interested party, Attorney Borden has the strength and determination to help you resolve the problem to your best advantage.

Grounds for Contesting a Will in Virginia

In Virginia, the following are legitimate grounds for contesting a will:

Improper Execution

A will can be contested because it has not been properly executed, i.e. that it was not signed or witnessed according to state regulations. Although notarizing a will is not required in either state, failing to have it notarized puts your will at greater risk of being contested so we recommend doing so. 

Lack of Testamentary Capacity

A primary reason for contesting a will in either state, as throughout the U.S., is that the testator (the person making the will) was not of “sound mind” at the time of creating the document. Testamentary capacity is defined as the mental capacity of the testator to understand the nature and extent of their property and the consequences of the writing and signing of their will. 

Those contesting the will may argue that the testator had a psychiatric illness, was chronically impaired by alcohol or drugs, or suffered from dementia at the time the will was created or signed. However, the contesting party must provide strong evidence, such as medical records or witness testimonies, to support this claim.

Undue Influence

Another common ground for contesting a will is the allegation of undue influence. This occurs when someone exerts improper pressure, manipulation, or coercion on the testator to favor them as a beneficiary. To prove undue influence, the contestant must demonstrate that the influencer had a significant role in the creation or modification of the will and that the testator’s free will was compromised. Evidence, such as suspicious circumstances, financial manipulation, threats, or isolation of the testator, may be used to support this claim.

Existence of a More Recent Will With Different Stipulations

In some cases, a contesting party may present evidence that another, more recent will exists, invalidating the document being contested.

Fraud or Forgery

To prove that fraud or forgery disqualifies the contested will, the accusing party must present evidence that the signature on the will was forged through expert handwriting analysis or that the testator was deceived into signing the will under false pretenses.

Revocation

A will can also be contested if there is evidence that the testator revoked it before their death by creating a new will or codicil (amendment) or by intentionally destroying their copy of the existing will. Once again, proof of either action is vital if the contestation is to be successful. 

Who Has the Legal Standing to Contest a Will in Virginia

Only certain individuals, known as “interested parties,” have the legal authority to contest a will. Interested parties may be: 

  • Beneficiaries named in a prior will or intestate heirs (those who would inherit if there were no will). 
  • Those named as beneficiaries in the current will believe that the property distribution is unfair or not as the testator promised.
  • Individuals with a “property Interest,” such as creditors or those who own a share of estate property, can contest a will if they can prove legitimacy. 
  • Individuals excluded from the will if they were named as beneficiaries in an earlier will but were subsequently excluded or disinherited.

How Can I Prevent My Will From Being Contested?

As Attorney Borden will discuss with you, there are several steps you can take to prevent your will from being contested. These include:

  • Communicate openly with your beneficiaries about your estate plan and your will so that there are no surprises or misunderstandings.
  • Updating your will as necessary so that your current will reflect changes in family structure, such as marriage, divorce, birth or adoption, deaths, and significant changes to your financial situation.
  • Using a no-contest clause in your will to discourage beneficiaries from disputes since such a clause states that anyone who challenges the will forfeits their inheritance.
  • Choosing personal representatives (executors) carefully to ensure that your estate is administered efficiently and effectively.
  • Adding a clause to your will that recommends mediation or alternative dispute resolution if there is a serious disagreement among beneficiaries.
  • Documenting your decision-making process to demonstrate your free will and sound mental capacity.
  • Obtaining medical and/or psychological evaluations that will serve to confirm your mental competence.

Our Experienced Fairfax Attorney Will Help Prevent a Will Contest or Handle One in Progress

Nobody wants their will contested, or a litigated battle among their beneficiaries. No one wants to leave a legacy of resentment or familial estrangement. The most important thing you can do to avoid the risk is to make sure you work with a knowledgeable attorney. 

Randall Borden will provide you with efficiency as well as empathy and help you construct an airtight will that is clear, compliant with your state’s laws, and legally binding. He will also lift the burden of handling a will contest and defending your right to your proper inheritance. Contact our office today.