A death of a loved one is normally a time for mourning – as a family comes to grips with a loss. Sometimes, however, circumstances arise that disrupt the normal process, especially where inheritance is concerned.
Normally, when someone dies without a will, heirship is determined by so-called intestate succession. In Texas, this means that property is inherited fully or split between the deceased’s spouse and children, depending on the biological relationship between them. These laws do not apply to assets such as:
- Living trusts
- Life insurance
- IRA, 401(k), or retirement accounts
For other property, however, inheritance goes first to the living spouse, second to the children, or is divided when blended families are involved.
Intestate succession is relatively straightforward, but what about cases with a will? Although in 99% of cases, a will passes without challenge, some cases do permit a will contest. Cases where a will may be challenged include:
- Age – where the deceased is under the age of 18 and is not emancipated.
- Mental state – the deceased lacked the capacity to understand what they were signing or the ramifications of signing the will.
- Undue influence – this can crop up where an outside party exercised an inordinate level of control over the deceased at the time they wrote their will, meaning the will cannot be considered their own legal wishes.
- Technical errors – the will does not meet legal requirements.
A will contest can be initiated only by those deemed interested parties in succession. This includes those who stand to inherit should a person pass away and immediate family. Most often, an interested party is an immediate heir – children and the surviving spouse. Sometimes, however, it is possible for those with a legal right or claim to property, such as real estate, to challenge a will even if they are outside the immediate succession.
Bennett, Weston, LaJone, and Turner P.C. is a law firm in the Greater-Dallas area. Our experienced team of attorneys can help resolve your family’s heirship disputes and ensure just distribution of your loved one’s estate under the law. We are able to represent your case whether defending or initiating an heirship dispute.