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Dallas Estate Litigation and Planning Blog

What You Need to Know about Contesting a Will

Contesting a will is a process that seeks to invalidate the will of a deceased individual.

A will contest is never a straightforward procedure. Only certain individuals have legal standing to contest a will, and they face a complicated set of legal procedures and strict time constraints. Furthermore, some people who have valid reasons to believe that they should contest the will are hesitant to do so for fear that other family members will perceive them as greedy or manipulative.

However, there are instances where genuine grounds to contest a will exist. In these situations, you deserve the opportunity to create a resolution that is fair for everybody involved.

Who Is Eligible to Contest a Will in Texas?

In order to contest a will, an individual or entity needs to have standing, meaning that the outcome of the will contest will directly affect them. You have standing if you are:

  • A named beneficiary in the will
  • A named fiduciary in the will (if you represent an entity such as a charity or a bank)
  • An intestate heir (someone who is eligible to inherit from the decedent’s estate if a will was not written)

Intestate heirs are determined through a list of kin known as intestate succession. Unmarried partners, friends, or charities are not eligible to be intestate heirs.

Grounds for Contesting a Will in Texas

If you fall into one of the above categories, you are eligible to contest a will in Texas on the following grounds:

  • Lack of capacity – Texas law requires that the testator (the person who made the will) have full mental capacity and competency at the time the will was created. If you can prove that the testator lacked capacity due to conditions such as dementia, Alzheimer’s, or a mental illness that incapacitated them, the will may be invalidated.
  • Revocation – If you can prove that the will was revoked and a subsequent will exists, you can contest the will that has been revoked.
  • Undue influence – This is when a testator was compelled or coerced to execute a will under pressure. Often this occurs under the influence of a friend, health care worker, advisor, or relative. It is also frequently the case that undue influence is applied when the testator is functioning with a diminished physical or mental capacity.
  • Fraud – If a testator was defrauded into executing a will that does not represent their true wishes, the will could be contested. For example, if one beneficiary told lies about another potential beneficiary with the intention of having that person written out of the will and it worked, this would constitute fraud.
  • Undue execution/lack of proper formalities – For a will to be valid in Texas, the will must be signed by the testator or by the testator’s appointed agent, who must sign it in the testator’s presence. Furthermore, two credible witnesses above the age of 14 must attest to the will and sign it in the presence of the testator. If the will is missing any of these requirements, or if it was drafted improperly, it can be contested.
  • Mistake – A will can be invalidated if the testator executed it by mistake.

What Are the Time Constraints for Contesting a Will?

In Texas, you have two years to contest a will. This time starts from the date that the will was admitted to probate rather than from the date of the decedent’s death. This time limit is necessary so that the decedent’s estate can be distributed in a timely fashion.

Replacing an Executor

While many will contests focus on changing or adding beneficiaries, sometimes the key issue is the fact that the will’s executor has breached their fiduciary duty and should be replaced.

The fiduciary duties of an executor include:

  • Organizing documents and taking an inventory of the decedent’s assets
  • Distributing assets
  • Distributing property that is not subject to probate
  • Managing benefits claims (e.g., life insurance, Social Security)

If the executor has not been organized or ethical in fulfilling these duties, you can move to have them replaced.

Contact an Experienced Contested Will Attorney

If you have reason to believe that there are problems with a loved one’s will, either due to mistakes or foul play, it is important that you have legal representation on your side. The experienced Dallas contested will attorneys of Staubus and Randall have the knowledge and skill necessary to handle the complicated legal processes involved with contesting a will. We will fight for your best interests in court, and we will keep you updated with frank and clear assessments of our progress at every step of the way.

Remember that time is of the essence when contesting a will. Contact us today at 214-691-3411 for a case evaluation.

The Firm

The attorneys at Staubus and Randall have over 100 years of combined experience in estate planning, probate, and litigation. We have the knowledge and skills to tackle complex legal issues, such as guardianships, will contests, fiduciary litigation, and trust litigation. We can also handle routine matters, such as estate administration, probating wills, heirship determinations, and other probate court matters.

Staubus and Randall received a preeminent AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell, which is the highest rating possible from a peer-rated legal service. This rating recognizes our hard work, dedication, and the case results we’re able to achieve.

Staubus & Randall Team

What Our Clients Say

"I recently had the occasion to hire Mr. Staubus for a hotly contested Guardianship matter. Mr. Staubus brought a rare combination of effectiveness, reasonableness and understanding of the human element involved. Mr. Staubus handled all things in a calm, highly competent, effective and reasonable way. It could not have been as easy as he made it seem. He's a credit to the Bar."

Jody

"Before retaining the guidance of the Staubus & Randall firm, I was at my wit's end trying to close an uncle's estate as a co-executor. In addition to dealing with difficult heirs, I had other pressing business issues coming up immediately on estate land in the middle of the Eagleford Shale including dealings with pipeline, seismic, oil & gas, and construction companies. The local bank also refused to give me access to information relating to the estate. This quickly became the most stressful and desperate time in my life...and then I found Joseph Legere who truly became my guardian angel. He was able to get all issues resolved efficiently and the estate fully closed. His professionalism, immense legal knowledge on a wide variety of topics, and amazing communication skills took the burdens off of me and quickly got closure. I am forever indebted to this firm for giving me my life back."

Martha

"Without exception, the legal service, professional attitude, prompt communication of your firm and your legal knowledge is second to none. I only wish I had an attorney here in Boston that could hold a candle to your experience and expertise. Working with you has been a pleasure, but even more, has made me believe that there are knowledgeable attorneys that do care about doing a good job. Thank you Keith! You may not truly understand how much of an impact you are having on peoples lives, but for me, you have helped change my life. As I begin making my dreams come true I can't help but remember none of this would be possible without you."

Joann

"Keith Staubus and Julie Blankenship and their team represented me in a jury trial in the probate court where the ownership of the business which I had worked hard to build was at stake. They successfully fought to preserve my business and my professional reputation, working masterfully to gain the support of the jury. I would not hesitate to hire them again in any bet-the-company litigation.”

Karen

"I have required legal representation twice in my life in two separate will contests. Both times I sought assistance from Keith Staubus and Staubus/Randall. Their service, approach, and determination to obtain results exceeded the other attorneys in each case. Mr. Staubus has always come across as genuine while being direct. He gets the process done in a timely manner with results. I will certainly use him again when and if any new challenges arise.”

David

"After my husband's death, I was devastated by having to defend against a vicious dispute over my husband's estate. Julie Blankenship and Keith Staubus made me feel very comfortable in this distressing situation. They were very tough and did an excellent job for me in obtaining a summary judgment in my favor without a full jury trial. I was glad to have them and Diane Walker in my corner to help me achieve an excellent result - I won! If I ever had to go back to probate court, I would hire them again.” - (will and trust construction case)

Flo

"If you need intervention for someone you love but don't know where to turn or who to turn to, Julie Blankenship and Keith Staubus helped me through the most difficult and stressful time in my life with a much loved family member. I now believe that good will triumph over evil. They fought for what was right, and good prevailed." (contested guardianship and will contest)

Janet

"As a professional money manager, I have used Ryan Randall's estate planning services both personally and for my clients. Ryan has exhibited three critical attributes in his work with me: (1) high intellectual capacity, (2) exceptional thoroughness, and (3) a total commitment to integrity. In today's litigious world, it can be quite costly not to "get things done right.” An added bonus to us was that we found one of the nicest people we could imagine.”

John

"I was represented by Keith Staubus as an income beneficiary in a lawsuit with the trustee of a family trust. Utilizing the expertise of a forensic accountant and his own trust expertise, Keith was able to negotiate a judicial modification of the trust providing for the buyout of my income interest for a substantial lump sum payment out of the trust, resulting in a win-win situation for all of the parties. I highly recommend Staubus/Randall for any trust disputes and trust modification actions."

Kathy

"I have been a wealth management specialist and retirement plan consultant with the Dallas/Fort Worth financial community for over 20 years. I have engaged Ryan Randall to work with a number of my best clients over the years, including business owners, professionals and families. My clients always appreciate Ryan’s straightforward approach to estate planning, asset protection planning and business succession planning. He makes even the most sophisticated estate planning strategies understandable."

Larry

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