Surprenant & Beneski gives five reasons for why a will may be considered invalid.

Five Reasons a Will May Be Invalid

In Massachusetts, a will that is poorly drafted or that does not adhere to state law may be invalidated by the court. The best way to create a legally binding will is to consult an experienced estate planning attorney. In the meantime, let’s take a look at five key reasons why a will may be invalid

1. Improper Execution

Under Massachusetts law, a person making a will must be at least 18 years of age and of sound mind, which means that the person has not been declared incompetent in a prior legal proceeding. In addition, a will must be in writing, signed by the person making the will (the testator), and two witnesses must also sign the will in the testator’s presence. The witnesses should be disinterested parties (i.e. not beneficiaries). A will that is improperly executed may be deemed invalid.

2. Lack of Testamentary Capacity

The testator must understand the reason for making the will and its effect. The testator must also understand the extent of the estate assets. An individual who is not of “sound mind” because of a medical condition or who cannot understand the will for any other reason, is said to lack testamentary capacity. In this situation, the beneficiaries can challenge the validity of the will.

3. Undue Influence/Fraud  

Undue influence can occur when a person close to the testator, such as beneficiary or caregiver, pressures the testator in making a will or revising an existing one. In addition, fraud can occur when a testator is presented with a will to sign but told that it is another document, such as a power of attorney. A will that is procured through fraud will be invalidated and can also result in criminal charges.

4. Poor Drafting

A will must clearly specify how the estate property is to be managed and distributed. The document must also expressly state that it is intended to be a will and that the testator understands the reason for making it. Finally, an executor must be named to carry out the instructions of the will.

5. Replacement by a Later Will:

It is usually recommended that a will to be updated regularly to align with lifetime changes, such as divorce, remarriage, or wealth accumulation. Although the most recently prepared and executed will takes precedence and invalidates any previous wills, challenges may arise if there is a change in the distribution plan or in the named beneficiaries.

The Takeaway

If you want to protect your assets and ensure that your loved ones receive the inheritance you intended for them, it is crucial to have a properly drafted will. By working with an experienced estate planning attorney, you can better protect your assets and your loved ones.