Can You Dispute a Will if You Have Been Disinherited?

Can You Dispute a Will if You Have Been Disinherited?

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It is awful to lose a loved one, and finding that you have been disinherited from their will can add to the shock and devastation. Amidst the feelings of confusion and hurt, it is a comfort to know that there are legal avenues available should you believe the will does not reflect the true intentions of the deceased. This article will explore how an estate litigation firm such as Westcoast Wills & Estates can help you assert your rights and dispute a will.


What Can Lead to Disinheritance?

Disinheritance is the act of deliberately excluding someone from a will. It often reflects complex family relationships and histories.

A common cause of disinheritance is estrangement or unresolved disputes. Perceived unworthiness is another compelling reason. The testator (person who made a will) might believe that a beneficiary is unworthy due to irresponsibility, lifestyle choices, or behavior they disapprove of.

Influence from another beneficiary can also play a significant role. This person might manipulate or pressure the testator into altering the will to exclude others so that they may gain more. This undue influence can result in a will that does not necessarily reflect the wishes of the deceased.

Misunderstandings and miscommunications can occur as well. A testator might mistakenly believe that a potential beneficiary no longer needs financial support or is already sufficiently provided for through other means, leading to their exclusion from the will.


Common Grounds for Disputing a Will

Disputing a will is a serious legal action. Various grounds can form the basis of such a dispute, and you will need to gather substantial evidence and legal support to succeed.

Lack of Testamentary Capacity

A will can be challenged on the premise that the testator was lacking in testamentary capacity when they wrote it. Conditions like dementia, severe mental illness, or the influence of drugs or alcohol can impair testamentary capacity. Evidence from medical records, witness testimonies, and expert opinions are crucial in proving this theory.

Undue Influence

Undue influence occurs when someone exerts excessive pressure on the testator, manipulating them into making decisions. To prove undue influence, you must show that the influencer had a close relationship with the testator, had the opportunity to exert control, and that the resulting will disproportionately benefit the influencer at the expense of others.

Fraud or Forgery

A will can be questioned if it is suspected to be fraudulent or forged. Fraud might involve tricking the testator into signing a document they believed to be something else, or providing false information that influences the content of the will. Forgery involves someone faking the testator’s signature or altering the document without authorization.

Improper Execution

A will must comply with specific legal formalities of the jurisdiction to be valid. For example, most states require that a will must be witnessed by at least two individuals over the age of 18. If the witnesses were not present at the same time as the signing of the will or did not meet the requirements of being a ‘proper’ witness, the will may be deemed invalid.


Existence of a Later Will

Sometimes, a more recent will exists that overrides the previous one. If you can produce a valid, later will that includes you as a beneficiary, the earlier will can be contested. This situation often arises when multiple versions of a will are discovered, and it becomes necessary to determine which one truly reflects the final intentions of the testator.


How Does the Will Dispute Process Work?

  1. Consult a Legal Professional

If you believe you have valid grounds to contest a will, the first thing to do is to consult with an experienced law firm who specializes in estate and probate law. A legal expert can hear you out, assess the feasibility of your case, and guide you through the next stages.


  1. Gather Evidence

Ample evidence is crucial to support your claim. This may include medical records indicating the testator’s mental capacity, documentation of undue influence, witness statements, or any other relevant materials that can substantiate your allegations and strengthen your case in court.


  1. File a Contest

Your lawyer will file a formal contest in probate court on your behalf. The contest outlines the grounds for your objection to the will. It is important to file the contest within the statutory time frame—typically within a few months after the will is submitted to probate.


  1. Attend Mediation or Court Hearings

Many jurisdictions encourage mediation as a first step to resolve disputes. Mediation allows all parties to negotiate a settlement. If mediation fails, the case will move on to court. During the court hearings, both sides will present their evidence, and a judge will make the final decision.


  1. Prepare for Possible Outcomes

You should be emotionally prepared for various outcomes, including the possibility that the will may be upheld. Your lawyer can advise you on alternatives, such as pursuing a family settlement agreement, should you not achieve your ideal outcome.



Being disinherited can be a difficult and disappointing experience. But it is good to know that you are not without rights and options. If you believe you have legitimate reasons to dispute a will, you should seek the advice and support of an estate attorney. In doing so, you can seek a fair resolution that honors the true intentions of your deceased loved one.

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