Dealing with the death of a loved one is never easy, and when you or a family member have a dispute about the inheritance, it makes things much more unpleasant. That’s why it’s a good idea to know your options if you have reason to dispute a will in Texas.
The first hurdle is the statute of limitations. You must oppose the will two years from the date it was entered into probate – not two years from your loved one’s death. If you are a minor, you must contest the will within two years of reaching the age of majority. If you are alleging fraud, there is no set time limit but the court will consider the amount of time between when you were aware of the fraud and when you filed the charges.
In addition to contesting the will in a timely manner, you must also prove that you have a pecuniary – or financial – interest in the matter.
Some wills and trusts contain a no contest clause. These usually state that if a beneficiary contests the will, they give up any inheritance. However, courts are loath to enforce these clauses because of their chilling effect on legitimate claims. Texas law also states that if a beneficiary brings a claim against a will in good faith, then even if the claim is unsuccessful they can still gain their inheritance. Claims brought in bad faith, however, are another matter.
Three reasons to contest a will
There are three categories on which to contest a will:
The first is if the deceased – called the testator – didn’t understand what was happening when they signed the will.
The second is if the testator was under undue influence by a third party. This can include blackmail, extortion, manipulation or coercion.
The third is if the will wasn’t properly signed with a witness present and if the will wasn’t written subject to the laws and requirements of the state.
If you should decide to contest a will, the best move you can make is to first consult with a qualified, experienced attorney to discover all your alternatives.