If you suspect a Will is fraud or invalid, you can challenge a will. However before doing so, you must know the grounds on which you can contest a Will, and how to go about challenging a will.
It is a common practice for the head of the family to consider creating a Will, aiming to prevent potential disputes among family members regarding property distribution after their demise. This legal document outlines details about property inheritance by legal heirs, specifying the division of shares and property. To be legally valid, the Will must be registered under the Indian Registration Act. Following the will-maker's death, any family member can obtain a probate of the Will from the court, which is a certified copy. The court then invites objections from heirs, and if none arise, the Will becomes effective.
In cases where the document is not registered, it is possible to challenge a Will. Although challenging a Will is a complex process, with the right supporting documents and valid reasons, one can potentially succeed in challenging a Will. There are specific grounds on which a Will can be challenged, leading to its partial or complete invalidation.
Grounds on which you can Challenge A Will
Below discussed are some grounds on which you can challenge a Will.
Lack of due execution - For a Will to be considered valid, it must include all essential components as mandated by law. Firstly, it must be in written form, and a crucial requirement is that it should be dated. In the event of multiple Wills with varying dates, the newer one would supersede and render the older version null and void.
Testamentary capacity - To draft a Will, an individual must be at least 18 years old as mandated by law, signifying the legal requirement of testamentary capacity. Contesting a Will can be based on the argument of insufficient testamentary capacity, implying that the person creating the Will was unaware of the implications of such an act. In such instances, the burden of proof lies in demonstrating that the testator was mentally unsound at the time of drafting the Will.
Undue influence - You can challenge a Will if a third party influenced or forced the testator to sign the Will.
Forgery - If you can prove that the Will is forged, not signed by the Will-maker or testator, and signed fraudulently, you can contest it in court. Any case of fraud can easily be challenged in the court.
Lack of approval - Lack of approval means that the testator was unclear or did not understand the contents of the Will. He just signed it. This is also a valid ground to contest the Will.
Lacking sufficient witnesses - For a Will to be legally valid, it must be signed in the presence of 2 witnesses who are 18 years and above. These witnesses cannot be the legal heirs of the property.
Claims by a legal heir - If a family member thinks he is not adequately provided for in the Will, he can challenge the Will.
Can You Challenge A Will After Probate
Probate is a court-issued certified copy of the Will, becoming effective after the testator's death. Contrary to common belief, it is possible to challenge a Will even after probate. The Will outlines the details of both immovable and movable properties designated for inheritance. Challenges to a Will can be made within a timeframe of up to 12 years from the testator's death.
How To Challenge A Will - Key Steps To Follow
If you do not know how to challenge a will, read ahead and learn about the process in detail.
Step 1: File the suit: If you have decided to challenge a Will, you first need to register the case in a court of law. All the matters related to document registration are filed under Section 18 of the Registration Act.
Step 2: Issue the Vakalatnama: Once you have registered the case, you need to issue the Vakalatnama. It can be considered a document giving a lawyer the right to present your case in court.
Step 3: Pay the court fee: Now, you need to pay the necessary court fees.
Step 4: Case proceeding: Upon acceptance of the case in a court of law, the legal proceedings will commence. The court will initiate by issuing a notice to the opposing party to appear before it. Throughout the proceedings, the individual contesting the Will must substantiate either that the Will was not intended or is invalid. It is crucial to provide compelling reasons to support the challenge.
Step 5: File the supporting documents: During the legal proceedings, the court will request you to submit the documents supporting your case. Following the submission, the hearing process will unfold. If the court rules in your favor, the entire Will or certain portions of it may be deemed invalid. Subsequently, the distribution of the property will be carried out in accordance with intestacy law. If you have any concerns regarding the Will, it is advisable to file the case promptly, as challenges may become more complicated once the Will is executed.
Get to know who can Challenge a Will
Before initiating a challenge to a Will, it is crucial to understand the specific prerequisites that must be satisfied. One of the most vital factors is legal standing, determining whether you are eligible to contest the Will. Only individuals listed in the Will or those who are not beneficiaries but stand to become beneficiaries if the judgment favors them have the right to contest the Will. If you meet the criteria for legal standing, you can proceed with challenging the Will.
Here is a list of those who can challenge a Will.
Heirs: The primary beneficiaries of the deceased's property, known as heirs, encompass children, spouses, grandparents, siblings, and parents. In instances where the heirs do not receive a fair share or are entirely excluded from the inheritance, they possess the legal right to challenge the Will. As significant beneficiaries, they can contest the Will within the bounds of the law, seeking their entitled portion of the property.
Minors: Minors cannot contest a Will as the age to carry out legal proceedings is 18 years. So, if a minor's rights are at stake, a guardian or a parent can initiate the lawsuit on their behalf.
Beneficiaries: These persons are named in the Will and will get a share in the property; these include surviving children, spouses, grandparents, grandchildren, etc. In the Will, the testator can also include faith communities, friends, charities, universities, etc.. These beneficiaries have the right to challenge the Will.
Conclusion to Challenging a Will
Several prerequisites must be met to successfully challenge a Will. After understanding the eligibility criteria and the process of contesting a Will, navigating through the procedure becomes more manageable. If there is a viable opportunity to challenge a Will, it is crucial to gather all necessary documents beforehand to substantiate your claims and secure the intended benefits.