However unpleasant, a person’s death may result in controversy as to the validity of a last will and testament or the distribution of assets. When this happens, families may ultimately decide to resolve such controversies in court.
In North Carolina, a party that is arguing that a will is not valid may decide to bring a caveat proceeding. “The purpose of a caveat is to determine whether the paperwriting purporting to be a will is in fact the last will and testament of the person for whom it is propounded.” In re Spinks, 7 N.C. App. 417, 423, 173 S.E.2d 1, 5 (1970).
We provide counsel to parties who either seek to contest a will (the “Caveators”), or are forced to defend a will being contested (“the Propounders”), as well as issues which may relate to this process. In North Carolina, the two primary reasons a will may be contested are due to:
- Lack of Capacity
When a party feels that the testator lacked the mental capacity to make a last will and testament, or “testamentary capacity,” that party may decide contest the will. Medical evidence tends to be very important in these types of contests and/or
- Undue Influence
“Undue influence” is when a person in power psychologically manipulates and persuades the testator to sign a will, eliminating the free will and judgment of the testator. In North Carolina, undue influence has been defined as “something operating upon the mind of the person whose act is called into judgment, of sufficient controlling effect to destroy free agency and to render the instrument, brought in question, not properly an expression of the wishes of the maker, but rather the expression of the will of another.” In Re Will of Jones, 362 N.C. 569, 575, 669 S.E.2d 572, 578 (2008).
Wilson Ratledge counsels parties in will caveat proceedings and other estate litigation actions. Our attorneys represent anyone whose interests under a will or trust are in dispute, or anyone who is concerned about the way in which a vulnerable or incompetent relative’s estate is being managed. We deal with business and partnership issues that need to be resolved in the estate administration process, as well as familial disputes with respect to a testator’s will.
We handle disputes involving estates of all sizes. Please contact an attorney at Wilson Ratledge to discuss an estate litigation issue today.