When someone creates a will in Maryland, they’re detailing their final wishes for property distribution and ensuring their loved ones are cared for. However, sometimes disagreements arise over a will’s validity. When family members or beneficiaries question its legitimacy, a will contest ensues. If you or a loved one are facing a will contest, understanding the basics can be invaluable.
Grounds for Contesting a Will in Maryland
- Undue Influence in Maryland Wills: One of the primary reasons wills are contested in Maryland is the suspicion of undue influence. This occurs when a person close to the decedent (the person who has passed away) may have taken advantage of their position to influence the decedent’s decisions. Instead of the will reflecting the true wishes of the decedent, it’s believed that the document mirrors the desires of someone else. This might be a family member, a caregiver, or any other individual who had significant access or influence over the deceased.
- Questioning Testamentary Capacity: Another frequent ground for challenging a will is testamentary capacity. In simple terms, did the person truly understand the consequences of the will they were signing? For a will to be valid in Maryland, the person must have been of a “sound and disposing mind” at the time of the will’s creation. If there’s credible doubt that they weren’t capable of making informed decisions due to dementia, mental illness, or any other incapacitating issue, the will’s validity can be questioned.
- Procedural Errors and Their Impact: In Maryland, there are strict regulations governing the creation and witnessing of a will. Procedural errors, such as insufficient witnesses or incorrect signatures, can leave a will vulnerable to challenges. These technicalities might seem minor, but they can significantly influence the will’s legitimacy in the eyes of the law.
The Procedure of a Will Contest
Every will represents the last wishes of a departed soul, aiming to ensure their assets and legacy are distributed according to their desires. However, sometimes these last wishes are put into question, leading to potentially lengthy legal battles that can strain relationships and tie up estates for months or even years. In Maryland, understanding the step-by-step procedure for contesting a will can be immensely helpful for both those who wish to challenge a will and those who find themselves defending one. This understanding starts with being aware of how a will contest is initiated and moves through to its eventual conclusion.
- Starting the Contest: A will contest isn’t initiated by merely raising objections. In Maryland, once a will is filed with the Register of Wills, there’s a designated time frame in which interested parties can voice their concerns. This isn’t an indefinite window, and missing this period can prevent potential contests later on.
- The Impact on Probate: If there’s a legitimate contest to the will, the probate process can be halted. Probate is the legal procedure by which a will is recognized and executed. But if the will’s authenticity is under suspicion, this process can be delayed until a resolution is achieved.
- The Court Hearing and Evidence Collection: After a will contest is initiated, the journey is often legal and procedural. Both parties – those defending the will’s integrity and those challenging it – gather evidence to support their claims. This could involve medical records, witness testimonies, or any other relevant documentation. If unresolved, this contest can proceed to a court hearing, where a judge in Maryland will decide on the will’s legitimacy based on the presented evidence.
Potential Outcomes of a Will Contest
Once evidence is presented, a Maryland court decides on the will’s validity. If deemed invalid, previous versions might be considered, or Maryland’s intestacy laws could dictate asset distribution. If found valid, the will’s directives are carried out. However, outcomes vary, so it’s beneficial to have guidance throughout the process.
Contact a Trusted Maryland Estate Planning Lawyer
Prevention is often better than a cure. In Maryland, clear communication is crucial. Discussing your intentions with family can minimize surprises and disagreements later on. Additionally, ensuring your will is properly executed with witnesses and following legal formalities can decrease the chances of a contest. Facing a will contest in Maryland? Or want to ensure your will stands strong against potential challenges? We’re here to help. Our experience with Maryland law can provide you the guidance and assurance you need. Don’t navigate this journey alone – contact Powers & Worshtil, P.C. at (301) 627-1000 today.