In General, there are Three Avenues to Challenge the Validity of a Will or Trust:
1) Lack of Mental Capacity: This type of challenge involves an assertion that at the time the Will or Trust document was signed, the person who signed the document did not have the required mental capacity to understand the legal effect of the document. Generally, a person is required to be mentally able to know the general nature and extent of his or her property, to know his or her family, and to be able to form an idea of how that property would pass to intended heirs. Obviously these types of cases are very fact and family specific, and almost always require use of medical experts and a great deal of factual development before trial (called “the discovery process”).
2) Undue Influence: This type of challenge involves an assertion that at the time the Will or Trust document was signed someone exerted pressure and improper influence on the person who signed the document, such that the document really did not reflect the willing intention of the signer, but instead was the product of the improper influence. These types of cases are very fact and family specific and require a great deal of factual development before trial. It is not unusual for an undue influence allegation to be present at the same time as a lack of capacity allegation, because a person in a weakened condition is more likely to be subject to outside pressures.
Our firm represented the successful plaintiffs challenging a Will and Trust on the basis of undue influence in the leading case decided by the Kansas Supreme Court: In re Cresto 358 P.3d 831(2015).
3) Fraud: It is rare, but still occurs, that someone commits actual fraudulent actions with regard to a Will or Trust. These actions could include: unauthorized destruction of Will or Trust; concealment of a Will or Trust; forging a signature; forging all or part of a document; or altering or falsifying a document to make it appear the document was signed on a different date than is true. These types of cases almost always require use of scientific experts for handwriting or document analysis, and a great deal of factual development before trial. Fraud cases can also result in criminal investigations, when necessary.
Our office has experience in representing Plaintiffs alleging documents are invalid for some of the reasons described above. We have also defended parties accused of undue influence and defended documents alleged to have been signed when someone did not have the required mental capacity.