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Contesting Estate Assets

Thursday, December 2, 2021 12:00 AM


The last thing anybody wants is conflict while grieving the loss of a loved one, but disputes happen and must be handled appropriately. Inheritance disputes create more issues regarding the estate and family relationships can suffer if the will is contested. Unfortunately, contesting a family inheritance is expected to increase as approximately $68 trillion will be inherited over the next 30 years. This means disputes will likely arise among siblings regarding their inheritance, and they will fight for their fair share by legally contesting the will. 

Why Contest a Will?

When a parent passes away and leaves an inheritance, there is a process to ensure all beneficiaries are treated equally. However, in some circumstances, a dispute can arise among siblings regarding their inheritance. 

One of the main reasons for fights over inheritance is that many adult children have been unable to build up a nest egg for their retirement. This is due to increased student loan debt, lower-paying jobs, and taking on caregiving responsibilities for aging parents – all of which can put a strain on financial resources. Additionally, some adult children hope their inheritance will fund their retirement due to a lack of personal savings. 

Some of these conflicts and questions can be resolved by discussing all assets available (monetary and otherwise) and the plans for disbursement with your adult children. If you wish to donate to charities or choose an heir other than your children, your wishes should be clear before your passing so there is less chance of a dispute. No matter how uncomfortable it may be, this discussion should include your health, financial, and estate planning details. The more you can convey when you are of sound mind and body, the fewer the chances your children will contest the will and your estate will end up in probate litigation. 

Contesting a Will in the State of Florida

According to F.S. 732.518, no one can contest the before the death of the testator, or the person who writes and executes (signs) the will. If contesting a will, you only have 90 days to hire an attorney, gather supporting documentation, and file a formal lawsuit. The timeline is shortened to 20 days if a Formal Notice of Administration was received before the will entering probate. 

A will may be successfully contested under the following circumstances:

  • Lack of proper execution. For a will to be properly executed, the testator must be 18 years of age or older and be of sound mind. Per F.S. 732.502, the document must be in writing and signed by the testator in the presence of two witnesses. If the will does not conform to these requirements, you may contest the will based on a technicality. 
  • Lack of capacity. According to the Florida Supreme Court, this generally means the testator understands the extent of their assets, the relationship to their beneficiaries, and the practical effect of a will. This applies when a will was created while the testator suffered from an illness affecting their mental capacity(i.e. Alzheimer’s). 
  • Undue influence. This alleges the will was not created voluntarily due to pressure from outside influences. 

Doran, Beam & Farrell
 has experience representing parties on all sides of probate litigation. Whether it’s representing an aggrieved beneficiary who is challenging the validity of a will or trust, defending an estate from attack by an outsider who attempts to nullify the deceased’s estate plan, or any number of other disagreements over a deceased’s property, our attorneys are here for you. To schedule a free case evaluation, call (727) 846-1000 or fill out our contact form