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Understanding a valid will and why it might be challenged

When a loved one dies in Texas, heirs or prospective heirs who believe there is an issue with the decedent's will often want to move forward with a legal dispute over the document. There can be a variety of reasons for this. What is important, however, is knowing the law when it comes to wills. There are several situations in which challenging a will can come about. Will formation and its requirements are key to having a valid will. If there is a problem in one or more of these areas, then it could be the foundation for a challenge.

For a will to be executed legally, the person must be of sound mind and body, and one of the following: be 18 or older; is or was married; or is in the U.S. Armed Forces, was an auxiliary member of the U.S. Armed Forces or was in the U.S. Maritime Service. For people who have made a will, they also have the right to pass items to heirs through that will and to disinherit those whom the testator does not want to receive anything. If the person was competent to craft a will, he or she can determine where the possessions go. The testator can disinherit an heir and direct how the property is passed either through the will or in intestacy, without a will.

For the will to be valid, it must be in written form. It must also be signed by the testator in person, or another person on the testator's behalf while the testator is there or under the direction of the testator. Two or more credible witnesses must attest to its signing and they must be a minimum of 14-years-old and sign the will in their handwriting while the testator is present. If it is a holographic will, which is a will written in the testator's handwriting, it does not need to be attested by witnesses.

When there is a dispute over a will's validity, a basic reason to claim that it is invalid is if it was not executed according to the law or there were violations when it was signed. Those who believe that a will should be invalidated should make certain they have legal assistance that is experienced in probate litigation.

Source: statutes.legis.state.tx.us, "Chapter 251. Fundamental Requirements and Provisions Relating to Wills," accessed on March 26, 2018

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