At Pence Law Firm, we help estates and their executors protect their hard work when a will is contested in probate court. The process of executing an estate can be stressful on its own, especially when you have had a close personal relationship with the person(s) behind the estate. We want you to be able to focus on healing after their death while also smoothly executing their wishes without going through a strenuous legal process.
Oklahoma law specifically defines the situations in which an individual with interest in the will can contest. State law (specifically 84 OK Stat § 84-43 (2019)) details that “A will or part of a will procured to be made by duress, menace, fraud or undue influence, may be denied probate; and a revocation procured by the same means, may be declared void.”
Before we can dive into each of the situations a will can be contested, it’s important to first establish whether someone even has legal standing to contest a will in the first place.
Who can contest a will in Oklahoma?
Oklahoma law is similar to most states in that the only people legally permitted to contest a will are individuals with a specific legal interest in the will. This means anyone named in the will as a beneficiary, anyone who has previously been named in the will and has since been removed, legal heirs to estate assets, and, in cases where debt remains, a creditor.
The court will throw out any attempt to contest a will by someone other than those named above. This prevents anyone with no legal claim to an estate from getting involved and delaying the process for nefarious purposes.
How can a will be contested?
As detailed above, a will can be denied probate if the details were made under “duress, menace, fraud or undue influence.” Each of these terms has a specific definition in Oklahoma law, and anyone contesting a will must provide proof of these conditions to successfully contest and alter a will. These terms are defined in 15 OK Stat § 15-55 (2019).
Duress is defined by the following conditions:
- Unlawful confinement of the person of the party, or of husband or wife of such party, or of an ancestor, descendant, or adopted child of such party, husband or wife.
- Unlawful detention of the property of any such person.
- Confinement of such person, lawful in form, but fraudulently obtained, or fraudulently made unjustly, harassing, or oppressive.
Menace is a threat of:
- The first and third conditions of duress defined above.
- Unlawful and violent injury to the person or property or of any such person defined in the first condition of duress above.
- Injury to the character of any such person.
Fraud in the case of an estate consists of any of the following conditions committed by a party to the contract with the intention of influencing details of the contract:
- The suggestion, as a fact, of that which is not true, by one who does not believe it to be true.
- The positive assertion in a manner not warranted by the information of the person making it, of that which is not true, though he believes it to be true.
- The suppression of that which is true, by one having knowledge or belief of the fact.
- A promise made without any intention of performing it.
- Any other act fitted to deceive.
Undue influence is when someone in confidence or who holds authority over the person behind the estate:
- Uses the confidence or authority for the purpose of obtaining an unfair advantage over the estate.
- Takes unfair advantage of another’s weakness of mind.
- Takes a grossly oppressive and unfair advantage of another’s necessities or distress.
Each of these scenarios can lead to the contestation of a will. Other situations such as unpaid debts, clerical errors, or other technical issues can lead to contestation, as well. There is just a three-month window to contest a will, so any attempts after this date are likely to be dismissed by the court.If your hard work is put at risk by someone trying to get in the way of its execution, you’re going to need a lawyer by your side. At Pence Law Firm, we help people protect what they’ve grown. Contact our offices today to protect your estate.