When a person dies having left a Will, they are said to have died “Testate.” Typically, the goal of creating and executing a Will is to better control what happens to the money, assets, and valuables upon one’s death by making clear to future heirs, beneficiaries, and interested parties (including a court) the decedent’s intent. While a Connecticut Will should be the testator’s last word about what should happen to that testator’s estate, oftentimes, even despite careful planning there may be cause to contest a Will.
WHO CAN CONTEST A WILL?
Only those with “standing” can contest a Will. Typically, only “heirs at law” and some other specific classes of people have standing. An heir at law is a person who would have been entitled to receive a portion of the deceased’s estate had the deceased died without leaving a Will (intestate). If you are thinking about contesting a Will, you may want to contact a Connecticut Will contest attorney first to help determine whether you have the standing to do so.
WHY CAN A WILL BE CONTESTED?
To understand what might give someone cause to contest a Will in Connecticut, it helps to know what makes a Will valid and, therefore, less susceptible to a Will contest. First, Connecticut General Statutes § 45a-250 requires that in order for one to make a valid Will, the person must be 18 years of age or older and of sound mind. This may also be referred to as testamentary capacity.
Second, Connecticut General Statutes § 45a-251 requires that a Will is properly executed if it is in writing, signed by the testator, and two witnesses. The Will must be signed in the presence of the witnesses.
Therefore, these two statutes provide some basis to contest a Will: The Testator was not of sound mind when he created the Will and/or it was not validly executed. A Connecticut Will contest attorney may be able to review the alleged Will and the circumstances surrounding its execution to help you determine whether there is a valid basis to contest the Will. A Will contest attorney may be able to review medical records or discover circumstantial evidence to determine if the testator knew and appreciated exactly what the testator was doing.
UNDUE INFLUENCE WILL CONTEST ATTORNEYS
Undue influence is the purposeful exercise of control or power over the testator “in an attempt to destroy his free agency.” Generally, the elements of undue influence are:
- The testator was subject influence. For example, because of failing health or diminished mental capacity.
- There was an opportunity to exert undue influence.
- The person had disposition to exert undue influence.
- The nature of the Will or the bequests indicates undue influence.
Of course, whether the disposition of property and assets as set forth in a Will is the result of undue influence is very fact specific. A Connecticut Will contest attorney may consider a variety of facts and circumstances to better evaluate your undue influence claim.
WILL CONTESTS BY SURVIVING SPOUSES
If you are the spouse of the testator, you may be able to contest the Will in Connecticut if the Will does not provide for you. If you believe that your spouse failed to provide for you by Will or outside of the Will in lieu of it, you should contact a Connecticut Will contest attorney to discuss the facts and your rights under Connecticut law.
CONNECTICUT PROBATE COURT ATTORNEYS
Generally, Will contests are brought in one of Connecticut’s Probate Court districts. Each Connecticut town is assigned to a Probate Court district. Some larger Connecticut towns and cities have its own Probate District, such as Hartford. Some smaller towns report to consolidated Probate Districts. For example, if you are contesting the Will of a Middletown, Connecticut resident, your matter may be brought to the Middletown Probate District. If the matter ends up in Connecticut Superior Court, it may then be heard in the Middlesex Judicial District. A Connecticut Probate Court Attorney will be able to tell you in which district your matter may be heard and discuss with you when and how a Connecticut Superior Court may hear your matter.
Please contact us to schedule a consultation if you are considering contesting a Will in Connecticut. We handle Will contest matters throughout Connecticut with a team of experienced litigation attorneys and staff members, including Will contests in Middletown, New Haven, Hartford, West Hartford, Vernon, Rockville, Tolland, Cromwell, and Rocky Hill.