Estate Litigation Law Firm in Daphne, AL
The goal of a comprehensive estate plan is to put in place a mechanism for what should happen to an estate after the subject of the will passes. Furthermore, an estate plan should do this in a way that avoids conflict and uncertainty during probate. Unfortunately, even the most thorough estate plan is vulnerable to legal issues. When issues arise, it is important to have a law firm ready to protect the rights of the client. Beneficiaries have the right to take legal action when they are concerned that an estate has been compromised and a will or trust is not valid. An executor or administrator may face legal action questioning their fiduciary responsibilities.
When these and other matters are on the table, it is important to discuss the situation with an attorney. Stone Crosby, P.C.’s litigation department is ready to fight for your rights. If you believe legal action is necessary, contact Stone Crosby, P.C. to discuss your situation.
Estate litigation services
Whether you are in Daphne, or elsewhere in Alabama, our firm is ready to represent you in court. Our litigation department is regularly called upon to represent clients in a variety of matters, including:
- Disputes regarding accounting
- Contests of wills and trusts
- Right of election disputes
- Disputes regarding the interpretation of a will
- Fiduciary litigation and removal proceedings
Contesting will and trusts
Who Can Contest a Will in Alabama?
The first thing to realize about will contests is that they cannot be filed by just anyone. Only “interested persons” are allowed to file a will contest as defined by Alabama law (AL Code § 43-8-190). An interested person is either someone who is named as a beneficiary in the will, someone who would be an heir or distributee of the estate if the will was declared invalid and Alabama intestate succession laws were applied, or a beneficiary named in a prior will.
What are the Legal Grounds for Contesting the Will in Alabama?
Assuming that you would meet the definition of an “interested person” under Alabama law, you will need to have a valid legal reason to contest the will. To wage a successful will challenge, you should be able to prove one or more of the following:
Lack of Mental Capacity
In order for a will to be valid, the testator must have “testamentary capacity”, meaning that the person creating the will generally understand his/her assets, family relationships, and the legal effect of signing and executing the will. It is presumed that a testator possesses testamentary capacity and it is up to the plaintiff to prove otherwise. This is a fairly high bar to clear, and even some declining mental ability or loss of memory might not be enough to demonstrate a lack of mental capacity.
As individuals age and become weaker both physically and mentally, or if the testator is sick, they become more vulnerable to the influence of others, including influence over how they will distribute the assets of their estate. Like showing incapacitation, proving undue influence is not easy. You will generally need to show more than just nagging or verbal intimidation.
Failure to Meet Technical Requirements
The will should be witnessed by two individuals who would not be considered “interested persons”. A do-it-yourself (DIY) or fill-in-the-blank will that is not customized for Alabama law might also fail to meet the technical requirements for the will to be valid, which could become the basis for a will contest.
Other Valid Objections to the Will
There are some other valid reasons that a will could be contested in Alabama. Examples may include a will that was procured by fraud, a will that was executed in error, or a will that was previously revoked by the testator. A skilled and knowledgeable will contest lawyer can examine the whole picture and determine if there are any valid legal reasons that could form the basis for a successful will challenge.
Contact Stone Crosby, P.C.
If you believe that the integrity of an estate has been jeopardized or believe that you were unlawfully cut out, as the party with interest in the estate, you may be entitled to take legal action. If you are acting as an executor or administrator and need legal assistance because of accusations regarding your fiduciary responsibility, our firm is there. To discuss your legal matter with an experienced and forthright litigator, contact Stone Crosby, P.C.