One of my family members filed a fake will and claimed it was signed by my recently-deceased sister. The will leaves all of my sister’s belongings — which are worth several hundred thousand dollars — to this relative, with whom she lived for the last two months of her life. It looks like my sister’s signature on the will, but she would never have left her entire estate to this relative. What can I do to fight it, and what is the deadline for fighting it? — Name Withheld, Greenville
Under the Texas Probate Code, a will must generally be contested within two years of the date it was admitted to probate. In your situation, you should seek out the witnesses and notary public who signed the will, and determine whether they will testify that your sister had full capacity to sign the will on the signature date. (This might be impossible to do if it was a handwritten, or “holographic” will, and that type of will is not addressed here.)
Depending on their answers, you may be able to fight probate of the will by claiming that your sister lacked capacity (i.e., didn’t understand what she was signing) or that your relative exercised “undue influence” over your sister. Both of these are difficult to establish, and will require a competent attorney.
While you have two years to file a contest, if you can manage to get it filed before the court opens administration, you may be able to shift the burden of proof to the other side. That is an extremely useful tool in a probate fight.
If you have a brief legal question on any topic, please forward it to Daniel@smrt-law.com.
Daniel Ray is a Greenville, Texas attorney licensed in all Texas courts. His firm, Scott, Money & Ray, PLLC, represents the City of Greenville, Hunt County, and many other public and private North Texas entities. His practice emphasis is civil litigation, wills and trusts and real estate.
This article is intended for entertainment and educational purposes as well as to give the reader general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice.
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