If someone you love passed away and left a final will and testament that you believe is invalid or erroneous, you can file a will caveat to prevent the will from being finalized and executed. Contesting a will is a time-sensitive legal matter. On your own, it can be a challenging process. An estate planning attorney can help by explaining how to contest a will in North Carolina.
The lawyer who represents you will explain the step-by-step process you need to follow to contest a will, starting with ensuring you have valid grounds to do so. Your lawyer will also help you file a will caveat, notify all involved parties, and compile evidence for your case. These actions are required by law but can be difficult to manage without legal guidance and support.
What is a Will Caveat?
According to the Legal Information Institute, a will caveat is a legal maneuver used to block the administration and execution of a will. The person who files the will caveat is known as the caveator. If a caveat is filed, the case will go to probate court, and a judge will determine its validity. The caveator must be present at any court proceeding.
If you are contesting a will, you should consider hiring an attorney with familiarity in this area of law. They can explain the process in detail and ensure your decision to contest the will in question is well-informed. Your lawyer can also explain the process and possible outcomes.
Grounds for Contesting a Will in North Carolina
According to G.S. § 31-32, you generally have three years to file a caveat contesting a will with the clerk of the superior court. The clock on the statute of limitations starts running when the will is submitted to the probate process. The clerk will then make proper notification of the filing and transfer the case from probate to the superior court for the trial process.
You must also notify anyone with an interest in the will of your intent to contest its legality and validity. They are entitled to receive a written copy of the caveat documents. Again, this process is more easily streamlined when a lawyer handles it for you. They can ensure proper notifications are made, and you can have peace of mind that your contestation will move forward.
What are Valid Reasons for Contesting a Will in North Carolina?
When you decide to contest a will, you must have legal grounds to support your request. While it is a legal document, a will is also a personal one and is the decedent’s final opportunity to dispose of their property and assets according to their preferences.
Disagreeing with the will is not a valid reason to contest it. To compel the court to overturn a will and disregard the decedent’s perceived preferences, you need powerful evidence of the will’s invalidity, such as:
Lack of Testamentary Capacity
This is a valid legal standing to contest a will in North Carolina. It asserts that the decedent did not have the requisite mental capability to understand the contents of their will or the mechanics of making a will. It further alleges that the decisions contained in the will were not theirs alone and that they did not fully understand the impact of the decisions made in their will on the named recipients or excluded parties.
Undue Influence on the Will Maker
This position alleges that the decedent was under extreme pressure or otherwise unduly influenced when they created their will. A lawyer can explain how to demonstrate that the testator was suffering from physical and psychological issues that hindered their decision-making abilities.
A will is a legal document that must be written, witnessed, and signed according to North Carolina laws G.S. § 31-1 through 31-3.1. A will that does not meet all legal parameters can be declared invalid. You can contest a will on the grounds of improper execution by proving the decedent was underage or that the will was not properly witnessed or filed.
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Contact Our Wills and Estates Team Today
You have the right to contest a will you believe is invalid. Doing so without legal counsel and support can be difficult. Our wills and estates attorney will review your case and clarify the laws that support your right to contest a will in North Carolina. We will also work to build a strong case file and represent you at all hearings and court appearances.
Get started today by contacting one of our Farmer & Morris Law, PLLC team members now.