The modern family looks much different than it did years ago making the estate planning process a bit more difficult. Given such, when a loved one passes who may have been part of a mixed family unit of stepchildren and second spouses, family members may have questions over the validity of a loved one’s will. If you believe a loved one’s will needs to undergo probate litigation, the estate litigation attorneys of Mazzoni Karam Petorak & Valvano are here for you.
What is Probate Litigation?
Probate Litigation is necessary when there is a dispute between the terms of a will and who is in charge of the estate.
During probate litigation, the court will look for reasons why the will may not be valid including:
Be it the over-exertion of control by one family member or caretaker, or that of another third party, undue influence looks to see if the will was created in the deceased’s own wishes, and not as a result of manipulation by another. To prove undue influence has occurred, the court asks the family to show the following:
- There was a confidential relationship between the primary beneficiary of the will and the testator
- That beneficiary receives a substantial benefit under the will should it be valid
- The creator of the will had a weakened intellect, thus was manipulated into changing the will or was easily skewed into changes.
In Pennsylvania, for a will to be valid, the deceased must have been of sound mind at its creation. However, in cases where the deceased had created the will when he or she lacked the mental capacity to understand the extent of his or her estate and the beneficiaries, the will is likely invalid.
Depleted testamentary capacity can be the result of a deteriorating mental or physical condition, mental decline as a result of age, illness, and/or impairment due to the use of alcohol and/or drugs.
In cases where an individual utilized a deceitful tactic to cheat the will creator and his or her beneficiaries from assets of the estate, the will can be found invalid on the basis of fraud.
In some cases, the fraud will not be as obvious as manipulating the individual; instead, it can be that the will creator was seeking advice on the creation of the will, and was deceived into committing an error in the creation and execution of the will and administration of the estate.
In Pennsylvania, for a will to be valid, it must contain the legal signature of the deceased. However, in some will contests, the family may question the authenticity of the deceased signature on some or all estate planning documents.
In cases where forgery is being investigated, the signature will likely need to be compared to other legal documents as well as be studied by handwriting experts.
In order for a will to be valid in Pennsylvania, the will must:
- 1. Be “in writing,”
- 2. Signed by the testator; and
- 3. The testator must be 18 years of age and of sound mind.
If any of these elements are found to have not occurred, the will is deemed invalid under improper execution.
Probate Litigation: Mazzoni Karam Petorak & Valvano
When you have concerns that the validity of a loved one’s estate is in question, you need a compassionate and dedicated team of probate litigation attorneys to review the case. Contact the NEPA probate litigation attorneys of Mazzoni Karam Petorak & Valvano today for a no-obligation consultation.
Call (570) 348-0776 and schedule an appointment with Mazzoni Karam Petorak & Valvano. We can walk you through, step by step, all the legal options available to you.