Contesting a will in Massachusetts

On Behalf of | Mar 14, 2024 | probate

In Massachusetts, as in most other states, a person’s will is supposed to settle all questions about the disposition of the maker’s assets. In some situations, however, a will can create conflict instead of eliminating it. If a relative of the decedent feels unfairly excluded from the bequests in the will, or if a potential beneficiary feels that the decedent was subject to undue influence and favored one possible heir over another, a lawsuit – usually called a “will contest” – may be the result.

Grounds for challenging a will

A will contest may be commenced by any heir named in the will, any person who would be eligible to inherit under Massachusetts’ laws of intestate succession, the decedent’s spouse.

Massachusetts law limits the grounds for challenging a will to the following:

  • Lack of testamentary capacity. This ground is based on the allegation that the testator lacked sufficient mental capacity to understand the legal effect of the will at the time that it was signed.
  • Undue influence. This claim rests on evidence that the testator was influenced by a beneficiary to make changes in the will and that those changes will unjustly benefit another beneficiary.
  • This allegation rests on evidence that the testator was misled by someone who made a material misrepresentation of fact that caused the testator to insert a provision into the will that would not otherwise have been included.
  • This claim is very rare: it asserts that someone forged the testator’s signature on the will.
  • Improper execution. This allegation claims that the will was not signed properly, as required by Massachusetts law that specifies the formalities for a valid will.
  • Revocation of will. This argument rests on evidence that the testator drafted and executed a new will prior to death.

The will contest proceeding

A will contest must be filed in the probate court that has jurisdiction over the will and the probate of the decedent’s property. The case will be tried in the probate court that probated the will.

Will contests are very complex lawsuits and should not be commenced without the advice of an experienced probate attorney.