When someone has died with a will, it is not uncommon for a family member or sometimes a friend or a person with a professional relationship with the decedent to have reason to suspect something is not right about the will’s terms or the circumstances around its execution and signing. This often happens when the testator (person who writes and signs the will) made an unusual change to their estate plan, especially if it occurred at a time when they were suffering from problems related to advanced age or illness.
When this happens, a probate lawyer can launch an investigation on behalf of the concerned party. For example, the investigation may involve:
- Checking into a person’s background if they were involved with the decedent’s will changes or if there is suspicion that they had inappropriate influence or improper motives for an increased level of contact and relationship building with the decedent, especially if the testator was ill, disabled or elderly
- Evaluating the testator’s intellectual capacity using medical or psychological experts
- Interviewing witnesses about suspicious persons or occurrences, the decedent’s capacity and other relevant evidence
If the evidence supports it, Colorado law allows an interested person to contest (challenge) the validity of the will in court. These grounds, if proven, are some of those sufficient to invalidate a will in Colorado:
- Undue influence on the testator by another
- Mental incapacity to make a will
On the other hand, sometimes people who do not like having been cut out of an estate through a will or who believe the decedent owed them money might try to contest the will. In those cases, the executor (personal representative) of the estate or the beneficiaries under the will should seek legal representation to defend against the challenge.