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4 reasons someone might challenge a will in probate court

On Behalf of | Dec 1, 2021 | Probate & Estate Administration |

Most of the time putting a will through probate goes smoothly, and the deceased’s assets get distributed to their heirs according to their wishes within a reasonable amount of time. Sometimes, though, a family member or other heir will challenge the will’s validity in court.

The person making the contest might be doing it for any number of reasons, but there are four common grounds for challenging whether a will is valid and legally enforceable. Here they are:


A will is a legal document, and like any legal document, if a party signed it on the basis of fraudulent claims, it is not valid. For example, a devious relative or “friend” could have presented the will to the testator and told them it was something else, like a power of attorney form.

Undue influence

In many will contests, the person challenging the will claims that the testator was the victim of undue influence. If the testator was older and dealing with senility or was otherwise vulnerable, another person could have manipulated, pressured or intimidated them into signing the will.

Lack of testamentary capacity

For a will to be valid in Tennessee, the testator must have had testamentary capacity when they signed it. Simply put, this means the person understood the value of their assets, who will be inheriting those items under the will’s terms, and the legal effect of signing the will. A person affected by dementia, an intellectual disability or severe mental illness when the will was executed may have lacked testamentary capacity, which would invalidate the will if someone successfully challenges it on those terms.

Improper signing procedure

In Tennessee, you must sign your will in the presence of at least two witnesses, who must also sign the will in each other’s presence, as well as yours. If a testator hired an attorney to prepare their estate plan, the attorney almost certainly made sure it was signed in accordance with state law. But if the testator prepared or revised their will themselves, there is a chance the will could be challenged on these grounds.

A will challenge can be distressing for the executor and the deceased’s family, but the parties involved in the dispute often settle their differences outside of court.