Under Virginia law, any will can be contested if legitimate legal grounds exist to do so. Those grounds can include the testator's incapacity, undue influence asserted on the testator by another person, the existence of a forged signature on the will, or a failure to adhere to the formal requirements for executing it. That said, various factors can make a will contest impossible, inadvisable, or more difficult to win.
If The Limitations Period Has Already Expired
Usually, in Virginia, a lawsuit contesting a will must be filed within one year after the clerk of a circuit court enters an order admitting the will to probate. There are some exceptions to that rule. For example, if the person who wishes to contest the will was a minor when the clerk entered the order of probate, the one-year clock will begin running when the minor reaches the age of majority. Regardless, if the limitations period has already expired, it is too late to contest the will.
If The Will Has A "No-Contest" Clause
Sometimes, to avoid family strife, a testator might include a provision in their will providing that anyone who contests it will be disinherited. Virginia law makes clear that those sorts of "no-contest" clauses are enforceable, provided they clearly express the testator's intent to disinherit the contesting beneficiary under the particular circumstances. If filing a will contest suit will cause you to be disinherited, you probably do not want to do it. However, if you believe legitimate grounds exist to contest a will, and the will has a no-contest clause, you should consult an attorney who can help you understand your rights and the risk you might be taking by filing a lawsuit to contest it.
If The Will Has A "Self-Proving Affidavit"
Finally, most wills that are prepared by attorneys include a "self-proving affidavit" in which the testator and two witnesses swear that the testator's will is his last will and testament, that he signed it willingly and voluntarilily, that he was over the age of 18, and that he was of sound mind. When a will includes a self-proving affidavit, it may be probated without the need for any witness testimony. Additionally, if a will is self-proved, a presumption arises that the testator had the mental capacity necessary to sign it. However, that presumption is rebuttable. To overcome it in a will contest suit, the party challenging the will must produce evidence that the testator lacked mental capacity. Therefore, it may be harder to contest a will that contains a self-proving affidavit. But it is certainly not impossible.
Find Out More By Contacting An Experienced Will Contest Attorney
At The Mottley Law Firm, we have experience handling all types of disputes involving estates and trusts, including will contest suits. If you are believe you have grounds to contest a loved one's will, contact us today.