The terms of a will are a touchy subject for children of parents who have chosen, for one reason or another, to leave them out. For those who have a strained relationship with their family member, being disinherited may not come as much of a shock. However, others may be completely caught by surprise when they discover that they have been left little or nothing. The best solution for prevention of family rivalry is good communication in the planning of the estate. But for those who feel dissatisfied after the fact and wish to question the document, wills can be challenged in court. Keep in mind, though, that the chances of success are slim and the cost of the battle may be more than the payout.
Anyone who wants to change the terms of a will must first establish one of four legal bases. The first option is to prove that the deceased person was heavily pressured by someone to change the will originally. This is difficult to prove, but if it can be shown that there was undue influence then the will may be deemed invalid. The second route is to prove that the deceased was tricked into signing the will without his or her true consent to its terms. Next, if the will was not prepared correctly then it may be invalid. Or, finally, if you can prove that the author did not have the mental capacity to actually consent to the terms at the time it was created, the will may be invalid. If any of these legal bases can be established, then you may have a case to bring forward.
Even if you have a legitimate case to bring, it still may not be the right decision to make. Legal battles can permanently destroy family relationships and may lead to more stress than it is really worth. Also, the financial cost of bringing a case may be greater than the amount you are ultimately fighting over. On the other hand, if elder abuse is suspected as part of the contest, then there is certainly a more rational basis for a court battle. In that case you may even be able to pursue a criminal case against the offending party rather than a civil suit.
There is always an option to try to change the terms of a will after the fact, but as you see, it can be costly and ineffective in many ways. The best protection against potential court battles within the family is solid communication between family members long before anyone passes away. If everyone is on the same page it will reduce the chance that anyone will be caught off guard and upset later on.