If your loved one has recently passed away and left a will, it should be probated soon. That means it will be submitted to probate court by someone called the proponent of the will, who must show the court the will is valid and authentic. The court’s job, then, is to see that the instructions in the will are carried out, with assets like money and property distributed to beneficiaries (heirs and others receiving the assets of the deceased). The court might appoint an executor to handle the distribution of assets, or an executor might be named in the will.
Meeting Your Burden of Proof in a Will Contest
A family member or beneficiary might believe the will is not valid for one of a number of reasons. If you feel your loved one’s will is invalid, South Dakota law allows you to contest the will, which means to argue that one or more of its provisions should not be carried out.
To contest a will successfully, you have to meet a burden of proof. That means you have to prove one or more of the following things to the court:
- Somebody near the deceased person unfairly influenced the writing of the will to get more benefits or deprive someone else of benefits.
- The deceased person was not of sound mind when writing the will.
- The signatures of the deceased and/or witnesses are missing or invalid.
- The will was forged.
- Whoever drafted the will made legal or clerical errors.
- The deceased revoked the submitted will by making changes to it, replacing it with a more recent will, or destroying the original will (if a copy has been submitted for probate).
Why You Need an Attorney for a Will Contest
When the various heirs, beneficiaries, and their lawyers start arguing over the validity of the will, things can get very complicated and unpleasant. Families can suffer long-lasting discord. You are most likely to meet your burden of proof and avoid stress by retaining an attorney who understands how to:
- Meet the burden of proof and show that a will is invalid.
- Negotiate with other beneficiaries.
- Resolve disagreements among the parties.
- Clarify ambiguities in the will.
- Remove an executor if necessary.
- Handle claims filed by the deceased person’s creditors.
Contact Our Experienced Sioux Falls Attorneys Today
Learn more about your options for a will contest with an experienced wills and estates lawyer now by contacting us online or calling us at 605-644-5003 to schedule a free consultation. We also encourage you to request a copy of our free guide, True Intent: South Dakota Will Contests.