Sometimes, family members of a recently-deceased person in Washington, Pennsylvania will attempt to claim that a will is invalid, typically because it leaves them out of it. This process is called a "Will contest."
A will is typically contested when a family member who expected to inherit a large amount of money or property are disappointed with the contents of the will, particularly if the testator's motives are not clear. They will frequently assume that the will must be a forgery, or a result of fraud or force.
If a considerable amount of money or property is being given away, the person left out of the will could rationally conclude that the cost and time of a court challenge is worth it.
Nonetheless, this is a matter that should not be approached lightly - will contests can frequently foster strife and infighting within families who are already mourning the loss of a loved one. This can permanently damage or alter family relationships.
When Can a Will be Contested in Washington, Pennsylvania?
Of course, a Washington, Pennsylvania court will not invalidate a will without a very good reason, but there are some cases which render a will clearly invalid.
For instance, a will obtained through duress (a threat of harm, typically physical) is invalid. Of course, duress is very difficult to prove after the fact, and the issue may not even come up until many years after it allegedly occurred, making proof even more difficult. Nonetheless, if the named beneficiary was in some type of position of power or trust with respect to the decedent, and is not someone who one would normally expect to get a large gift in a will (they're unrelated to the testator, for example), those facts alone might be enough to raise the suspicion of impropriety. Of course, those facts by themselves are not enough to prove duress.
Another thing to consider is the mental capacity of the person making the will. If, at the time the will was made, the testator was insane or heavily intoxicated, the will is likely to be held invalid by a court, if the underlying facts can be shown.
There are many other facts that might make a will invalid, and therefore serve as grounds to contest a will. If a will is effectively contested in Washington, Pennsylvania, and held to be invalid, this typically results in the property being distributed as if the decedent had died intestate (without a will). This means that it will usually go to the decedent's closest living relative.
Can a Washington, Pennsylvania Contested Will Attorney Help?
Because this can involve complicated legal issues, and be very emotionally draining, this is not something you want to go at alone. A reliable lawyer in Washington, Pennsylvania can be very helpful in making sure that this process goes as smoothly as possible.