Factors That Can Affect the Validity of a Will in Pennsylvania
Black and Davison
People do some pretty strange things when it comes time to divide the property of a loved one. It’s not uncommon for potential heirs to engage in wrongful conduct to gain advantage in estate matters. There are, however, ways that you can contest a will. Here are the most common factors that can be used to challenge the validity of a will:
- Failure to meet formality requirements — In Pennsylvania, a will must meet certain technical requirements to be valid. It must be in writing, and it must be signed at the end of the document. Pennsylvania courts have ruled a will to be invalid because it was signed at the beginning of the document.
- Misrepresentation or fraud — A will may be declared unenforceable if it can be shown that that testator (the person executing the will) was misled into believing it was something other than a will
- Forgery — A will can also be rendered void if it can be proven that the testator never signed the will and that any signature on the will was forged
- Undue influence — If you can show that someone named in the will exerted improper or undue influence on the testator, when the testator was in an intellectually weakened capacity. Undue influence in Pennsylvania requires that you show a confidential relationship between the person receiving a substantial benefit and the testator. The person may be a family member, caregiver or a person with power of attorney. Furthermore, there’s no requirement for undue influence that the testator lacked capacity, only that the testator’s “reasoning power, factual knowledge, freedom of thought and decision, and other characteristics of a fully competent mentality” be impaired.
- Lack of capacity – For a Pennsylvania will to be valid, the testator must have been “of sound mind.”