The Process for Disputing a Will

It is very rare for the family of a deceased individual to contest their will, but the situation does arise from time to time for a variety of reasons. Here is a look at the legal grounds for contesting a will, the process you must follow in order to contest the will, and the potential outcomes of this type of case. 

If you have any specific questions or need tailored support with writing a legally binding will or contesting a loved one’s will, you should contact an experienced firm that regularly handles cases related to family law in Albuquerque (

Legal Grounds For Contesting A Will 

Only an individual with a genuine interest in the will is entitled to contest it. This includes those who are named as beneficiaries or who would ordinarily stand to inherit under New Mexico’s intestacy laws [1]. It is not necessary for someone who wishes to contest a will to be related to the deceased. Business partners and close friends are entitled to contest the will should they have a valid reason to do so.

Reasons For Contesting A Will

The State of New Mexico has established legal grounds [2] for contesting a will in order to prevent or reduce the filing of erroneous claims. Further discouraging erroneous claims are no-contest provisions that stipulate that anybody who contests a will and loses may also lose the inheritance that they previously stood to receive. But this applies only if the person had no actual reason to contest the will.

The only reasons that are valid for those proposing contesting a will are:

1) The deceased did not have full mental capacity. If the deceased can be proven to have suffered from a lack of mental capacity, their will may be classified as invalid. This means that the deceased would not have been able to understand the nature and/or the extent of the assets and wealth in their estate, nor to correctly identify their heirs. For a mental capacity claim to be upheld, medical evidence will be required to substantiate the claim.

2) The deceased was being subjected to undue influence. In this instance, it must be proven that someone who was in a position of trust used this influence to convince the deceased to change their will in their favor with the sole intent of becoming a beneficiary of their will.

3) The deceased was a victim of fraud or forgery, or they made a mistake. Every case that alleges fraud, forgery or mistake will be handled slightly differently depending on the specific circumstances that are involved. These cases range from the deceased mis-spelling a beneficiary’s name to a fraudster fabricating an entirely new will and forging the deceased’s signature. 

4) The deceased was under duress to change their will. When a vulnerable individual is forced, coerced or threatened into changing their will, they are said to have done so under duress. This is an illegal practice and handled under the Elder Abuse and Elder Financial Exploitation Statutes [3] as well as in a will contest lawsuit. 

5) The deceased did not follow the correct formalities. For a will to be legally enforceable, it is necessary to comply with the requirements of the State of New Mexico [4]. If the deceased did not comply with these requirements, their will may be subject to challenge.

The process for contesting a will

1) Work with an experienced family law attorney. They will help you determine whether you have a valid justification to contest the will and help you file a lawsuit with the appropriate court.

2) Gather supporting evidence. Both the person contesting the will and the person defending it will be allowed to gather evidence to support their claims. These may include but are not limited to medical statements and witness testimonies.

3) Resolve differences informally. If both parties are willing to negotiate, they may opt for mediation or agree to a settlement figure outside of court. This process is legally binding and can potentially save money, time and stress.

4) Proceed to trial. Court proceedings will occur if the parties cannot reach an amicable agreement. In this situation, evidence and arguments will be presented to the court, and the judge or jury will make a determination on their behalf.

5) Determination. The court will determine the validity of the will and of the claims brought before it. If it is agreed that a will is invalid, the deceased’s estate will be distributed according to New Mexico intestacy laws.

Whether you are looking to write a will or discuss the possibility of contesting a will, the Law Office of Dorene A. Kuffer will support you with the knowledge, compassion and experience that is needed to make sound, legally binding decisions regarding your estate or that of your loved one.