In the Commonwealth of Virginia, only interested parties can contest a will. An interested party is an individual that has standing to challenge the estate and is usually someone who is entitled to receive property under the will. It could also be someone who has a legal right to part of the estate, such as a spouse or someone who would be entitled to property under the laws of intestacy if the will were invalidated. Simply being related to the decedent does not necessarily make you an interested party. Contesting a will is usually done to invalidate a portion or portions of a will presented at probate. It can also be done to introduce another will that is believed to be the last will and testament of the decedent.
What makes a will valid under Virginia law?Under Virginia law, the court honors only those wills considered valid. If there is suspicion of fraud or a reason to believe that the decedent was not of sound mind or was pressured by others when drafting the document, the heirs may challenge the will in court. To create a legally valid will in Virginia you must satisfy the following 3 requirements:
- Age: You must be at least 18 years old.
- Testamentary Capacity: You must be generally of sound mind and understand the nature and extent of your estate and the natural heirs of your estate.
- Free will: You must create the will voluntarily, without any pressure, undue influence or fraud by others.
Contesting a willMost wills go through probate unchallenged. As a general rule, the courts are reluctant to interfere with the wishes of a person as reflected in a last will and testament. Unless challengers to a will can establish undue influence, lack of testamentary capacity, or other legal issues to invalidate the entire document or certain portions of it, the courts attempt to carry out the last wishes of the testator. Proving fraud or the deceased’s lack of free will is hard to do and usually results in a prolonged and costly legal battle. It may be easier to prove that the will was invalid for technical reasons, such as improper witnesses, failure to follow the requirements for creating and executing a will under Virginia law, or because there is another valid will.
Estate disputesThe attorneys at Melone Law offer services that address the following estate dispute issues:
- Disputes over the executor’s compensation
- Estate and probate administration management disputes
- Disputes about how the will was drafted
- Joint property disputes
- Will and trust disputes
- Distribution of assets
- Tax controversies or claims
- Guardianship documentation
- Undue influence allegations
- Testator Competency issues
- Inheritance and family planning