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Will Contests in Madison County

For some reason, relatives who usually get along fine stop getting along and cooperating with one another once there is an estate or property that is to be divided by an executor or administered by a trustee. People fight over land, jewelry, and personal possessions. They fight with their siblings and with their children. They fight to save the farm and to sell the farm. They fight even though they may not know their rights or their obligations. The estate and probate attorneys at the Hancock Law Firm, PLLC have experience with the full range of estate planning and probate administration issues, including those which involve will contests and other disputes.

Common Grounds for Contesting a Will

There are many ways a will can be challenged or contested under Mississippi law.

Below are some of the most common grounds for contesting a will:

  • Lack of Capacity
    It may be alleged that the person making the will (the testator) was not of sound mind when the will was executed and did not fully understand or appreciate what he or she was doing. This ground is often alleged when an older person revokes a previous will and executes a new one which is strikingly different.
  • Lack of Intent
    A will may be declared invalid if it is the product of mistake, fraud, undue influence, or duress. These situations are sometimes alleged when a person was under the exclusive care of another in his or her final days, and the last will and testament favors the caregiver over other family members.
  • Invalid Wills
    If the statute of wills was not properly followed, a will may be invalid because it is improperly signed or witnessed. Also, attempts to alter or revoke an existing will are sometimes made without the advice or assistance of a lawyer, with the result that the will is subject to challenge and not given its proper effect.

How Our Law Firm Can Help You

At the Hancock Law Firm, our clients range from heirs who have disputes over land that goes back hundreds of years to second spouses in disputes with grown children from their deceased spouse’s former marriage.

Our lawyers represent the beneficiary, groups of beneficiaries, or the estate in a wide range of will contests and probate disputes, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Assets disputes
  • Breach of fiduciary duty to challenge the way in which a trustee manages an estate or trust
  • Contested wills and will disputes when family members or beneficiaries disagree
  • Determination of heirship
  • Estate litigation related to property disputes
  • Petition for removal of an executor
  • Probate administration challenges for instances when the estate is closed without serving all of the heirs
  • Trust disputes, including trustee financial mismanagement

Invalidating or Challenging a Will

The process of challenging a will takes the form of a lawsuit, filed in either the probate court responsible for the will or in a general court. When filed in a general court, the lawsuit often takes the form of an appeal of a previous ruling by the probate court – either upholding or invalidating the will.

Whether in probate court or in general court, the will contest is an adversarial proceeding in which all parties have the opportunity to present evidence. The evidence often includes testimony from witnesses who have personal knowledge of facts and circumstances that are relevant to validating the will.

Such witnesses are usually:

  • People who knew the testator (friends and family)
  • Treated the testator (physicians, nurses and other health care providers)
  • And/or provided services to the testator (attorneys, accountants, financial advisors)

In addition to witnesses, each party may also produce documentary evidence, such as:

  • Contracts
  • Medical records
  • Videotapes
  • Photographs
  • And correspondence

Prior to the actual hearing in court, the parties have the opportunity to conduct discovery. Witnesses are interviewed, documents are reviewed and the respective cases are put on for trial. Witnesses are often required to give a deposition prior to the actual hearing.

Evidence Must Be Related to the Validity of the Will

For example, if one issue is the testator’s mental competency when the will was signed, witnesses who can provide useful information about the testator’s state of mind will help the court in its search for the truth. Oftentimes, during the course of discovery and prior to the actual hearing, the parties will engage in settlement discussions and may, either by agreement or by order of the Judge, submit to mediation to explore whether the parties can settle their differences without the need for a formal trial.

Because will contests often involve testimony that is conflicting and issues that are not clearly or easily resolvable, mediation can be a very useful and productive process for all parties.

Get Help with Your Probate Dispute

If you are challenging or defending the validity of a will or the actions of an executor or trustee, or for any other probate dispute in Madison County, Rankin County, and the surrounding communities, contact the Hancock Law Firm for advice and representation from knowledgeable, skilled, and experienced Mississippi wills, trusts, and estate lawyers.

Contact Hancock Law Firm, PLLC

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