According to the Legal Information Institute, a will caveat is a legal motion filed by an individual who does not believe a deceased loved one’s will to be valid, so they try to stop the will from being validated. According to Merriam-Webster, “caveat” is a Latin phrase that means warning or caution—its literal translation is “let him beware.”
If you are drafting your will, an estate planning attorney can help you avoid the possibility of your personal preferences being challenged or disregarded after your death. The lawyer you choose can explain what a will caveat is, why someone might challenge a will, and the steps you can take to avoid this painful and frustrating situation for your family later.
In This Article
Why Would Someone File a Will Caveat?
Your property is yours to do with as you see fit. Preparing your final will and testament alone or as part of a comprehensive estate plan allows you to ensure your property and assets are passed to the people and organizations you choose.
Sometimes, a friend or relative may disagree with the designations you make in your will. If they disagree vehemently enough, they may file a will caveat. Once they do, they will prevent any action from being taken to honor your will or distribute your assets until a hearing has been scheduled.
What are the Legal Grounds for Filing a Will Caveat?
Anyone who challenges your will must be more than merely disgruntled; they must have legal grounds for doing so. Common grounds include:
- Lack of testamentary capacity that alleges the will in question was made by an individual who did not have the appropriate mental capacity to do so
- Undue influence that alleges the deceased person was pressured, forced, or coerced into making a provision in their will
- Failure of execution that alleges the will in question did not follow proper legal protocols or was not appropriately signed or witnessed
Someone may also file a will caveat if they believe the will to be fraudulent.
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Who Can Challenge a Will?
To contest a will by filing a will caveat, an individual must stand to benefit from the estate if the will they are contesting is invalidated. This means either that they would benefit from the estate if the decedent had died intestate (without a will) or that they would benefit from a prior valid will.
In cases of intestacy, the state determines who can inherit your property and assets and in what percentages and amounts.
What if I Want to File a Will Caveat?
If you believe a will is invalid, you can challenge the will in court. To do so, you must have a valid legal reason. You also need to understand the steps involved in building a strong case and taking it in front of a judge.
An estate planning attorney can listen to your story and understand why you are filing a will caveat. They can also define the legal grounds of your case, compile the evidence you need, and represent you at the requisite hearing.
How Can I Avoid a Will Caveat and Ensure My Will Is Honored?
The primary reason you make a will is because you want to distribute your property and assets in the way you prefer. You can take several steps to ensure your will is honored after your death.
First, you can designate a no-contest clause, or a penalty for anyone who challenges your will. You can also work with a will and estate lawyer to ensure your will is legal, binding, accurate, witnessed, and signed.
Does My Will Have to Go Through Probate?
An estate planning attorney can help you draft your will and ensure it will avoid the lengthy and frustrating probate process. In most cases, you can avoid probate by naming a designated beneficiary on insurance policies, designating rights of survivorship on real property, and designating certain accounts as payable or transferable on death.
Get Help Creating a Will That Gives You Peace of Mind
Are you planning your will and estate plan? You should decide where your property and assets will go after your demise– not the probate court or a dissatisfied friend or relative. A wills and estate attorney from our team can help you draft a binding agreement that will avoid a will caveat at a later date.
Contact one of our estate planning team members at Farmer & Morris Law, PLLC to get started today.