An interested party can challenge a will’s validity in North Carolina by filing a will caveat. This is a proceeding where the will is contested, and the caveator has the burden of proof to show that the will is not legally valid.
An interested party would usually fall into one of the following two categories:
- A family member who would inherit under North Carolina’s intestacy laws.
- An heir under a prior will.
If you were an heir under a prior will, but were disinherited under the new will, you could be an interested party. If there is no prior will and you would inherit under the intestacy laws, you could be an interested party.
One situation that would not meet this condition is someone who was promised to be put into a will, but wasn’t. If you wouldn’t inherit under the intestacy statutes or a prior will, a court won’t name you as an heir, even if the deceased person told you that you would receive something in their will.
Talk to an estate planning attorney to determine whether you have standing to contest a will and what the potential benefits could be.
Will caveats usually allege either undue influence or lack of testamentary capacity. Undue influence means that a person improperly persuaded the deceased person to make the will.
Lack of testamentary capacity means that the person didn’t understand the consequences of their actions. This is a difficult standard to meet and requires more than poor decision making.
In some cases, wills can be challenged on other grounds. If the legal requirements weren’t met (attesting witnesses, etc.), the will can be declared invalid. There can also be disputes about which version of a will controls when multiple wills exist. This is why it’s important to clearly revoke all prior wills whenever a new will is made.
Before you proceed with a will caveat, talk to an attorney about your grounds for contesting the will and what evidence you have to support your claim. You shouldn’t contest a will just because you are unhappy with what you received or didn’t receive. But if you have legal standing and grounds for challenging the will, talk to an estate planning attorney about your legal options.
At King Law Office, we understand that your estate plan should be designed to fit your objectives and family situation. Our goal is to help guide you through this process and listen to your concerns. Come visit us at one of our 13 office locations, including Charlotte, Lincolnton, and Hickory.