Contesting Wills and Trusts

At Sawin Law, P.C., we understand that dealing with a loved one’s estate can be emotional and challenging, especially when there are disputes over the validity of a will or trust. As a reputable and trustworthy law firm serving Plymouth County and beyond, we’re committed to guiding families through these tough times with compassion and expertise. Here’s a straightforward guide on contesting wills and trusts in Massachusetts, designed to help you understand your rights and the steps involved in estate litigation.

Understanding the Basics: What Does Contesting a Will Mean?

Contesting a will or a trust means challenging the legal validity of the document in court. It’s not about disagreeing with what the will or trust says but rather questioning whether the document truly reflects the wishes of the person who passed away, known legally as the decedent.

Grounds for Contesting Wills and Trusts in Massachusetts

In Massachusetts, there are specific grounds on which a will or trust can be contested:

  1. Lack of Capacity: The legal framework stipulates that the individual creating the document must have been mentally competent for a will or trust to be considered valid. This means they needed to have a clear understanding of the document’s significance, a comprehensive awareness of their assets, and the implications of their decisions. This ensures that the document reflects their true intentions and is legally binding.
  2. Undue Influence: This situation arises when the creation of a will or trust is not the result of the decedent’s free choice but is instead due to severe pressure or undue influence exerted by another individual. Often, this individual is someone close to the deceased, such as a family member or caregiver, who stands to gain substantial benefits from the document’s contents. This undue influence compromises the authenticity of the decedent’s true intentions. It raises questions about the legitimacy of the will or trust.
  3. Improper Execution: Massachusetts law sets forth stringent requirements regarding the signing and witnessing of wills and trusts. These legal documents must adhere to specific protocols; for instance, they must be signed by witnesses with no vested interest in the will or trust. Please comply with these legal formalities to avoid a situation where the document is challenged and potentially invalidated, causing complications and disputes during the estate settlement process.
  4. Fraud or Forgery: Contesting a will or trust on the grounds of fraud is a complex legal process that requires demonstrating that the deceased person was deceived regarding the document’s contents or that the document itself is a forgery. This involves gathering substantial evidence to prove that the decedent was misled or that the signatures on the document were fabricated, which often requires the expertise of legal professionals and forensic analysts. Successfully proving fraud can lead to the nullification of the current document and the enforcement of a previous will or the application of state intestacy laws.

The Process of Estate Litigation in Massachusetts

Estate litigation can be a complex field, but here’s a simplified overview of the process:

  1. Filing a Petition: The initial step in challenging a will or trust involves submitting a detailed petition to the probate court. This document must outline the grounds upon which the contest is based, whether it concerns the document’s validity, the decedent’s mental capacity at the time the will was made, or potential undue influence exerted over the decedent. This crucial stage sets the foundation for the following legal proceedings.
  2. Notifying Interested Parties: It is legally required to inform all potential heirs and beneficiaries about the estate in question, providing them with a formal notification. This process ensures that everyone with a possible claim or interest in the estate is given a fair opportunity to come forward, present their case, and respond accordingly.
  3. Discovery Phase: During this critical phase, both parties involved in the case actively gather evidence to build their arguments. This process may include conducting depositions, where witnesses are questioned under oath, making formal requests for documents relevant to the case, and seeking expert testimony to support their claims. This phase is essential for preparing for trial or negotiating settlements.
  4. Court Hearings: The case will be meticulously presented in court, allowing both parties to argue their positions before a judge comprehensively. This formal setting allows for a detailed examination of the evidence and arguments, ensuring a fair and reasonable process.
  5. Judge’s Decision: The judge will carefully review all the evidence presented during the trial and apply the relevant legal standards to make a fair and informed decision. This process ensures that the outcome is just, taking into account the complexities of the case and the laws that apply.

How Contesting Wills and Trusts Can Help Massachusetts Families

Understanding and potentially contesting wills and trusts are crucial for protecting your family’s rights and ensuring that the true intentions of your loved ones are honored. It helps prevent the exploitation of older people and those with diminished capacities, ensuring that their assets are distributed as they genuinely wish and that all parties are treated fairly.

Why Choose Sawin Law, P.C.?

At Sawin Law, P.C., we draw on years of legal experience, high-quality education, and hands-on training to deliver effective counsel that gets results. Our analytical approach and thorough efforts ensure we find the right strategy for each case, particularly in sensitive situations like estate disputes.

If you’re facing a dispute over a will or trust, don’t navigate these troubled waters alone. Contact Sawin Law, P.C. today at (781) 713-1212 for a free 30-minute consultation. We’ll help ensure that your loved one’s wishes are honored and your rights are protected throughout the process. Remember, the quality of your legal representation can profoundly affect the outcome of your case. Let us help you achieve peace of mind during these challenging times.