If a will is not valid, a person will be deemed to have died “intestate”, and property will be distributed according to state intestate laws. Learn what you need to do to prevent this outcome.more...
Will Contests – Protect Your Inheritance (and That of your Family)
Serving clients in Braintree, Quincy, Boston, Hingham, including Suffolk, Norfolk, Plymouth and Middlesex counties, and throughout Massachusetts
The death of a loved one can be traumatic. Unfortunately, many times the tragedy of a loved one’s death is compounded by the wrongful actions of others trying to undue a deceased loved one’s intent for asset distribution.
As a Boston will contest lawyer, I can help.
With years of experience, I focus on seeking the best outcome for clients. As a former Assistant District Attorney in the Norfolk County District Attorney’s Office and the Middlesex County District Attorney’s Office, I handled numerous high-profile criminal cases, I’ve built a career on successfully representing litigants.
Will Contest Scenarios
In many cases, will contests do not arise through any intentionally wrongful actions of others who may be inheriting under a will, but rather from instances where the will itself may be vague or the testator may have expressed certain wishes in his or her life, but these wishes are not reflected in a will.
In these situations, the best outcome for all involved usually will be to reach an agreement in a timely manner. I help explain to clients the strength of their case and the options available so that they can make the right decision in terms of how they would like me to represent them, which will often be a function of the strength of their case.
Grounds for Challenging a Will in Massachusetts
While most will contest cases involve legitimate disagreements and issues concerning a valid will, there are some cases in which serious factors may be involved which may impact those entitled to inherit under the will, including whether the will itself is valid, or whether those claiming to be entitled to inherit have engaged in wrongful actions in order to gain assets to which they otherwise would not be entitled. In these cases, I represent clients seeking to gain or preserve their rightful inheritance.
It is important to know that in Massachusetts, there are a number of grounds for challenging a will, including the following:
Testamentary Capacity. In Massachusetts, only those age 18 or older can make a will. Additionally, a person executing a will must understand:
The extent and nature of their assets. A person does not necessarily have to know all of their assets; instead, they must have a general idea of the assets they own and realize that they, in fact, are the owner.
Those who are the beneficiaries of, and will inherit under, the will. A testator thus must understand to whom assets will be given upon death. They do not necessarily need to have any personal relationship with their beneficiaries, but they do need to understand who the people are who will inherit their estate.
That by executing a will, they are in fact providing for the disposal of their assets upon death. They need to understand that this is the legal effect of the document that they are signing.
If any of these elements are lacking, the validity of the will may be challenged.
Fraud and Forgery. Fraud can consist of a number of actions, such as if a testator is deceived into executing a will when they in fact believe that they are executing some other type of document, such as a power of attorney. Forgery can include one person forging the testator’s signature. It may also involve making false or misleading statements to a testator.
Undue Influence. Undue influence can consist of one person taking advantage of a testator when the testator is not of sound mind in order to induce the testator into including such person in the testator’s will.
The Will in Question is Not Valid. There are many reasons that a will may not be valid, such as if a subsequent will was executed that specifically revokes the will in question. A will may also not be valid if the legal formalities have not been followed, such as those concerning witnesses and other execution requirements.
Questions about the Provisions of a Will. The terms of a will may be vague. For instance, a testator may bequeath “my favorite painting to my grandson.” If the testator has a number of paintings, the “favorite” painting may not be clear. Further, a testator may bequeath to his son “my boat.” What happens if the testator acquires subsequent boats, or if he sells his boat that he had at the time the will was made, and thereafter purchases another boat? These types of issues may lead to a will contest whereby a court may be required to determine the testator’s intent based upon evidence to be introduced at trial.
What Happens in a Will Contest, and How I Help
I represent clients in will contests in which there may be a question regarding the assets to which they are entitled to inherit. I also represent clients who have been wrongfully cut out of a will, as well as those who have been included in a will but whose inheritance interests are in jeopardy because another person is trying to take assets that belong to that person.
If the assets to which you believe you are entitled are being contested by others, it will be in your best interest to seek legal counsel immediately. This is particularly the case if the assets in question require ongoing care and maintenance, such as a house that must be secured, insurance that must be maintained, and perhaps even a mortgage where payments must continue to be made.
The specific legal action to be taken will vary depending upon the facts and circumstances of your matter. I can meet with you and explain your options and how I can help so that you can make the choice that is best for you concerning protecting your interests.
What Our Clients Say
“I hired Atty. Gemma back in 2010 to settle the estate of a family member who passed away. There were lots of components because there was infighting within the family. From the time I met Atty. Gemma, he was very welcoming and reassuring. His patience and calmness helped me to get through a very difficult period. And he was good at keeping me informed every step of the way. Once the estate was settled, I hired Atty. Gemma to handle my will and trust. Because of his experience and expertise, I would recommend him without reservation.”
Avvo 5 Star Review – Annette
The firm will not take any action on your behalf unless and until a written agreement for representation is signed by the firm.
Gemma Law Office News & Information
If you die without a will in Massachusetts, the state intestate laws will determine who inherits your probate property. It does not matter whether you wanted (or did not want) these people to inherit your assets; the administrator of your estate must distribute assets according to law. Learn what you need to do to protect your wishes.more...