Wills and trusts are crucial legal documents that can affect how a deceased individual’s estate is divided between beneficiaries such as descendants, family members, and friends. However, sometimes a will may be invalid for one or more reasons. In these circumstances, you need to know how to challenge a will in Arkansas with the assistance of knowledgeable legal representatives.
Arkansas Will Contests Explained
In Arkansas, you can challenge the validity of a will before and after a person is deceased. A will contest is a direct legal challenge filed with the county court that is overseeing the will’s probate process. The probate process is the legal procedure that involves opening, reading, and enacting the terms of a deceased individual’s will.
When you challenge a will, you stipulate that the will:
- Is invalid for one or more reasons
- Should be thrown out, modified, or adjusted based on the nature of the issue
For example, imagine a situation in which a beloved family member suddenly dies. You learn that they were suffering from a mental disease that compromised their decision-making abilities when they adjusted their will prior to their death. Under these circumstances, you may wish to challenge the will and have it modified or reverted to a previous version that the deceased wrote before their diagnosis.
There are many possible cases where it may be wise to challenge a will. However, it’s always a good idea to do so with knowledgeable attorneys on your side, rather than by yourself.
When Can You Challenge a Will in Arkansas?
You can challenge a will in Arkansas if you have one of the below four potential grounds or claims:
Non-Compliance with Statutory Procedures
If a will is created without being compliant with statutory procedures, the will may be found invalid. For example, an Arkansas will has to be in writing and signed by the testator or deceased individual, along with two witnesses who are disinterested in the estate and its content.
The Will’s Owner Lacks Mental Capacity
If a testator doesn’t have the mental capacity necessary to create a will or knowingly sign off on its contents, the will may be invalid, even if it is signed. Arkansas courts normally apply the same core standards of mental capacity for trusts and wills. In other words, if a person is not of sound enough mind to create a trust, they are also not of sound enough mind to create a will. Mental capacity is measured at the time that a will is signed, not before or after.
The Will’s Owner Was Subject to Undue Influence
If it can be proven that the testator was subject to undue influence—such as a threat—the will could be found invalid. If any individual has a position of power over the testator and deprives them of free agency when making a will or trust, that document cannot be legally binding.
The Will is Affected by Fraud or a Mistake
If the will in question has a mistake or is the subject of fraud, it may be adjusted or deemed invalid. For example, if the will references things that have nothing to do with the testator’s estate because of their mental capacity, the will contains important errors and will need to be re-examined, at the very least.
How to Contest a Will in Arkansas
To contest a will in Arkansas, you must first file a written objection with the same county court that is overseeing the will’s probate process. If you intend to contest a will, it’s important to do so at the earliest opportunity. According to Arkansas state law, the person who objects to the contents of a person’s will must file their contest paperwork prior to the probate hearing.
However, depending on the circumstances of your case, you could have until the final distribution of the estate to file a lawsuit. This timeline is normally only extended to those who have found proof of another will from the same deceased individual that contains different directions for the distribution of their estate.
In any case, to be successful, you must have sufficient evidence proving one of the above four claims applies to the decedent’s will. This can be difficult, especially if you have to gather the evidence yourself or work with other family members who have different agendas.
Why You Should Hire Legal Experts for an Arkansas Will Contest.
Legal experts can be invaluable aids during any Arkansas will contest. They know what to recommend based on the details of your case and what you should expect given your current amount of evidence or the surrounding legal situation.
An experienced estate attorney can provide legal counsel to you and:
- Recommend whether or not you should challenge a will based on the evidence you have or are able to acquire
- Potentially gather evidence for you or organize evidence to make a compelling case to the county court
- Represent your interests during any hearing or lawsuit trial
Most importantly, legal representatives can provide you with peace of mind and help you get through this difficult time as responsible partners.
Contact Milligan Law Offices Today
As knowledgeable family law and estate attorneys, the legal professionals at Milligan Law Offices are well-equipped to assist with your case. We’ve handled many Arkansas will challenges in the past and have assisted family members in this very difficult time.
Even in the best cases, you may not know whether you have grounds to challenge a will or whether your will contest will be successful. With our aid, your claim will be as strong as possible, and you’ll have the sound legal counsel you need to make the right decision for you and your family.
Get in touch for an initial consultation today by calling us at (479) 783-2213 or by contacting us online.