Virginia does not have a probate court system. All probate matters go through circuit courts, according to the Virginia Court Clerks’ Association. Despite this difference in the state, there is still the right to contest a will once it is in probate.
Contesting a will is a complex and sensitive matter that can arise when a person believes that a will does not accurately represent the wishes of the deceased or the execution was under suspicious circumstances.
The right to contest
The first step in contesting a will is to identify valid grounds for doing so. In general, you cannot contest a will simply because you disagree with its provisions. There must be specific reasons, which might include fraud, undue influence, lack of testamentary capacity or the will not meeting the legal requirements. To establish these grounds, you must gather evidence that supports your claim.
Undue influence is a common reason for contesting a will. It implies that someone had a significant and inappropriate influence on the deceased, resulting in the contents of the will not being a true reflection of their wishes. To challenge a will on these grounds, you need to provide proof, often involving testimony from witnesses who can attest to the pressure exerted on the deceased.
Lack of testamentary capacity
Lack of testamentary capacity means that the person creating the will was not of sound mind at the time of execution. To challenge a will on these grounds, you must provide evidence, such as medical records or testimony from experts, showing that the deceased lacked the mental capacity to make decisions about their assets and beneficiaries.
Fraud implies that someone deceived the person creating the will about the contents of the will or induced them to sign it under false pretenses. To contest a will based on fraud, you need to provide concrete evidence of the deceit, which can include documents, emails or witnesses.
Challenging a will also requires adhering to strict time limits. Missing a deadline may result in the court dismissing your claim. So, you have to be sure you have the proper grounds and follow all guidelines to successfully bring your objections to the court.