A carefully organized and executed will is a powerful tool in a Missouri resident’s estate plan. A personal will provides important instructions and information to individuals about how a decedent wished to distribute their assets after their death. When a will is clearly written, comprehensive in its scope, and conforms to the legal requirements mandated by state law, it may be strong enough to stand up to challenges by presumptive beneficiaries.

When a person challenges a will, they generally seek to change some part of it, have a separate document recognized as the decedent’s will, or to have the purported will set aside as invalid. A will can be challenged on many grounds, and the issues discussed in this post are only some of the scenarios that may lead to will challenges. Readers should not use this post as legal guidance or advice and may wish to discuss with their estate planning attorneys their questions and concerns about preventing will challenges.

Reasons wills get challenged

One reason that wills are challenged is there is evidence that the decedents were coerced or pressured to change their wills against their wishes. A person must have testamentary capacity to create a will, and if they are unable to understand how particular alterations to their will may go against their intentions, their will may not be valid. A lack of testamentary capacity or evidence of coercion may demonstrate that a will is not an accurate representation of a person’s wishes.

Another reason that a will may be challenged is that it does not conform to the legal requirements established by Missouri law. If a will does not have any witness attestations, if it is not signed by its creator, or if it is incomplete in any way, it may not stand as a legal and valid will. If a will is not valid, it generally will not be authoritative in distributing a person’s estate.

Will contests can draw out the estate and probate processes and can be costly. One way to avoid these issues is to take the time to draft and execute a valid and comprehensive will. An estate planning attorney can help an individual who is ready to undertake this important legal process.