Two things concern most people who are making wills: that their will can carry out their wishes, and that they minimize the risk of a will contest, according to FindLaw. You can help decrease the chances that your will may be found invalid after you die by planning ahead. Consider sharing your concerns for making a will with an attorney, especially if you have minor children or substantial investments, advises FindLaw.
Most states have minimum requirements for a valid will. These are things that a will must contain in order for the probate court to recognize that the document is in fact a will. These include a statement identifying the will as your last will and testament, a statement that appoints an executor, at least one statement that gives some or all of your property to a person or charity, and your signature and the signatures of at least two witnesses, according to FindLaw. In most cases, your will must also be in writing.
Many wills are challenged on the grounds that the person who made the will did not have testamentary capacity, or the mental ability to make a will, according to FindLaw. In most states, a person must be at least 18 years old when he makes a will. He must also be "of sound mind," which usually means that the person who made the will knew it was his will, knew who would be receiving the property and knew that he was leaving the property to those people, according to FindLaw. Your witnesses should be able to testify that you were of sound mind when you signed your will.
Fraud and Undue Influence
Even if you had the mental capacity to make your will, it may still be challenged after your death on the grounds of fraud or undue influence, according to FindLaw. Undue influence occurs when another person coerces you into leaving her something in your will that you would not have left that person without being coerced. Fraud occurs when someone deliberately lies or misrepresents facts to you in order to get you to leave her something in your will. Fraud and undue influence can occur together, according to FindLaw, or they may occur separately. In order to minimize the power of a fraud claim, choose independent witnesses who are not receiving anything under your will or are related to anyone who is.
A will may be contested on the grounds that the will is not actually the deceased person's last will and testament, but that another will takes precedence over and revokes the will being read, according to FindLaw. In order to avoid confusion over which version of a will represents your actual wishes, always include a phrase in your will stating that it is your last will and testament and that it revokes any prior wills or codicils. Include the full date, with day, month and year, on your will. And, once your most recent will is witnessed, gather together and destroy any copies of previous wills, recommends FindLaw.