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.
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:
If a last will and testament lacks any one of these requirements, the law may consider it invalid and you may contest or challenge it in a legal proceeding. Contesting a will is a complicated and often lengthy process, so it’s important to consult with a knowledgeable and experienced Virginia estate planning attorney who can advise you on whether you have legal grounds for contesting the will and/or identify the ground(s) for challenging the will. Contesting a will in Virginia requires more than claiming that the individual contesting it was treated unfairly. In other words, you can’t challenge a will because you don’t like what it says.
Most 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.
The attorneys at Melone Hatley offer services that address the following estate dispute issues:
Melone Hatley is a general practice law firm and serves Virginia Beach and the Northern Virginia area. Our practice areas include Family Law, Divorce and Special Needs Children, Traffic Ticket Defense, DUI/DWI Defense, and Trust and Estate Law. Our philosophy is to provide all of our clients with the highest quality legal representation, innovative legal solutions, and unsurpassed dedication to customer service. Through our high standards, we strive to be a trusted resource to our clients.
We know from experience that a successful attorney-client relationship depends on our ability to understand your needs and objectives. For more information about wills and estate planning, contact our office today at 703.995.9900 in Northern Virginia or 757.296.0580 in Virginia Beach, or visit our website: www.MeloneLawPC.com.