Contesting a Will in Maryland
In Maryland, there are only a handful of reasons to contest a will, and courts are strongly inclined to follow the expressed wishes of the person who made it (also known as the testator).
If you believe however that a will is false, forged, or outdated or that it does not reflect the true wishes of the testator, then you should consult with a Montgomery County, Maryland probate attorney. It is important to do so quickly. Maryland attorney Henry Nash is an experienced probate lawyer.
Who, How, and Important Time Limits
In Maryland, will contests are handled by the Orphans’ Court, which is the state’s probate court. The process of contesting a will in Maryland is called a “caveat proceeding.”
Only certain “interested parties” may file caveat proceedings in Maryland. In general, this includes two groups of people:
- Beneficiaries named by the testator in the will; and
- Individuals who would have inherited if the deceased person left no will. This most often applies to spouses, but may include children, parents, relatives and sometimes creditors.
It is important to realize that you must act quickly. The time limits on contesting a will can be as short as just six months from the date of the grant of probate or when letters of administration were issued.
Reasons to Contest a Will
In Maryland, some of the most common reasons to contest a will are, as follows.
- The will does not comply with the requirements of Maryland law. It must be in writing, signed by the testator, or someone else in their presence and with their permission, and witnessed by at least two credible witnesses. The testator must also be at least 18 years old and legally competent at the time of signing.
- The testator was not legally competent at the time the will was signed. The question of mental impairment can become very complicated. In general, though a will may be invalid if the testator did not understand the consequences of making the will at the time of its creation. The best evidence that the testator was not competent is a court’s official determination that he or she was not able to manage his or her own affairs and was subject to an adult legal guardianship. This is not the only evidence, however. It is essential that you speak to a Maryland probate attorney if you are concerned about the testator’s legal capacity.
- Fraud or forgery. If you believe that the will is an outright forgery, this may provide grounds to contest the will. The will may also be invalid if it was procured by fraud, as in a situation where the testator was tricked into signing the will, having been told that it was a different document, such as a power of attorney.
- Undue influence. If someone coerced, forced, threatened or otherwise unfairly influenced the deceased person in writing their will, that may also be grounds for a contest. This is sometimes closely intertwined with the issue of competence where a physically and emotionally frail person becomes particularly dependent on a caregiver.
- There was a later will. If you’ve located a will that appears to be more recent than the one that has been presented for probate, this could be a legitimate reason to invalidate the older document. Difficult issues of residency may arise in this context in situations where, for example, the testator was a snowbird, who wintered in Florida but also kept a home in Maryland. The will must be valid in the state where the deceased resided, but “residence” is a legal concept that can be difficult to determine.
Speak With an Experienced Probate Lawyer in Rockville, Maryland
At The Law Office of Henry Nash, we work with clients in Rockville, throughout Montgomery County, and elsewhere in Maryland who have questions about contesting a will. We also assist out-of-state clients who have loved ones residing in the state. If you have any questions or concerns about any issues relating to any of our services, we welcome you to call us at (301) 998-6111 or contact us through our online form.