A will is a document written by a person that says what they want done with their property after they die. Because of the importance of this decision to the decedent's survivors, there are some very strict legal requirements in place that must be met for a will to be considered valid.
If there is reason to believe that a will is invalid, some individuals have a legal right to contest the will in probate court. However, the right to contest a will is limited. Typically, only a beneficiary, or potential beneficiary (a close relative of the deceased) has the right to contest a will. In some cases, a person who is not a close relative has a right to contest a will (or a specific provision in it) if they can prove that they had a contract with the deceased, while he or she was alive, that called for the contester to be included in the will.
Common Grounds for Contesting a Will
Will contests based on a contract, however, are relatively rare. The more common situation is when a close relative (such as a spouse or child), who would automatically inherit all or part of the decedent's estate if they died without a will (intestate), but are disinherited in the decedent's will. Obviously, these people have a very strong incentive to show that the will is invalid, and they should therefore inherit their share of the estate as if the decedent had died intestate.
However, there are very limited grounds on which a will can be held to be invalid, and most of them are quite difficult to prove, especially since none of these issues come up until the person with the most direct knowledge of them (the decedent) is dead.
Common grounds for finding a will invalid include a showing that the will is a forgery, that it was written under duress or undue influence, or that the testator was mentally incompetent at the time they wrote the will. There are several others, but these are the most common.
If you believe that you have grounds to contest a will, you need to act quickly. You should speak with an attorney who specializes in probate and will contests as soon as possible.