Occasionally, family members of a recently-deceased person in Dalhart, Texas will attempt to claim that a will is invalid, usually because it leaves them out of it. This process is called a "Will contest."

There are several reasons why a person might want to contest a will made by a close family member. Sometimes, people will decide to leave money or property to charity, or to other entities who are not closely related. If their family members weren't expecting this, they might assume that something went wrong with the drafting of the will.

If a large amount of money or property is being given away, the person left out of the will could reasonably conclude that the cost and time of a court challenge is worth it.

Like any legal matter, however, this should not be taken lightly. Will contests can foster conflict and strife within families who are already mourning a loved one. This can cause severe and irreversible damage to family relationships.

When Can a Will be Contested in Dalhart, Texas?

A court in Dalhart, Texas will not entertain a will contest unless there is a very good reason to do so. However, there are some allegations which, if proven, clearly invalidate a will.

For example, a will which was not made under the testator's own volition and free will is not valid. This means that the testator must be acting voluntarily throughout the entire process of making his will. Therefore, a will made under duress (force, or threat of force) will not be given effect. In order to show duress, you generally need to first prove that the person named in the will was in a position of trust and power over the decedent, and that they are an "unnatural beneficiary" (someone who you would not normally expect to receive a gift under a will, usually because they are not related to, or close friends with, the testator). These facts, taken alone, are never enough to definitively prove that duress occurred. They are, however, usually enough to suggest that something strange is going on, and warrant further investigation.

Another reason why a will might be invalid is the maker of the will being mentally incompetent at the time the will was made. In order to make a valid will, the person making it must have enough of his or her mental faculties to understand what they're doing, and the consequences of it.

If the contest is successful, a court in Dalhart, Texas might find the will or part of it invalid. Of course, that leaves the question of how to distribute the property in the absence of a valid will. All states have laws that address this situation, usually passing the property to the decedent's closest living kin. All states have laws governing the order in which property is passed on in this manner. Typically, it goes to the spouse first. If there is no living spouse, it goes to the children. If there are no children, it goes to the decedent's parents, and so on. Most laws on this subject are written in such a way that almost everyone will have at least one relative entitled to inherit, even if that person is very distantly related to the decedent. In the very rare case where no living relatives exist, or none can be found, the decedent's assets usually go to the state.

Can a Dalhart, Texas Contested Will Attorney Help?

Contesting a will is often difficult, and never fun. However, the whole process can be made more bearable if you have the help of a qualified Dalhart, Texas attorney, and the process will probably be much more manageable.