Articles Posted in WILL CONTESTS

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Georgia probate law allows for any individual, not just beneficiaries and heirs, to legally challenge a will that has been filed for probate. When successful, this type of petition deems invalid all of the provisions of a will, or sometimes just specific sections of a will. The person challenging the will is required to provide evidence that the will is invalid. There are many legal reasons for challenging a will under Georgia law. Five commonly accepted objections that frequently are used to contest a will are as follows:

1) The will presented is not the most up to date will.

2) The deceased was not of sound mind when the will was written.

3) The will was written under a fraudulent misrepresentation, mistake of fact, or other false pretense, which affected the way the will was written.

4) The will was written with undue influence from a third party.

5) The will was not executed properly, including not being witnessed or notarized correctly.

It is not enough for an individual to object to a will because they feel that the deceased has not treated them fairly in the will. Proof that the will is invalid must be provided and all claims will be investigated thoroughly by the court. As a result, this type of petition can cost unnecessary time and money and completely stalls the Georgia probate process. There are several things that can be done when a will is written that will discourage will contests. Using witnesses who can later provide logical testimony in front of a court and securing affidavits from credible individuals that can be used later to confirm the true intentions of the deceased are two of these strategies.

In my Atlanta Estate Litigation law practice, I have represented many clients in Georgia will contest lawsuits. Most recently I have seen an increase in cases that arise from the assertion of undue influence. Unfortunately, many people fall victim to third parties who have less than honorable intentions and wills written under this type of coercion or duress can cause havoc after the death of a loved one. When undue influence or any other cause for objection is suspected, the assistance of an experienced Atlanta Probate attorney is critical for the equitable resolution of a will contest. A qualified attorney can ensure that the genuine desires of the deceased are honored and defended.
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As a will probate litigation lawyer in Atlanta, Georgia, I know it is important to understand the grounds to contest a Georgia will. If you are a beneficiary, however, it is important for you to know if the Georgia will contains a “no contest” clause. If the will does contain a “no contest” clause and you still try to contest it, you will likely be disinherited all together. At The Libby Law Firm, we can help you determine if there is a reason to contest a will and can represent your interests throughout the will contest process.


• Connected to the will-only people who are in direct connection to the will can contest its validity. You either have to be directly named in the will or a relative that should have been named in the will.

• Undue influence-if you believe that your loved one was influenced wrongly or created the will under duress in their final days, then you may have a valid reason to contest the will

• Fraud-if you believe that your loved one was the victim of fraud or wrongdoing, then you may be able to contest the will.

• Mental Incapacity-if you question the mental capacity of the deceased person or testator, then the will may be considered invalid. You must be able to prove that your loved one was not of sound mind and body when the will was created.


If you do not wish to contest the validity of a Georgia will, but wish to interfere with the GA estate proceedings to acquire what is rightfully yours, there is another way. You may be able to file a lawsuit against the recipient of the portion of the estate you believe is rightfully yours. It is important to note, however, that this must be done when the testator of the will is still living. The Atlanta will contest lawyers at The Libby Law Firm can help you determine which course of legal action is right for you.

As soon as you realize a GA will contest dispute attorney may be part of what is necessary, right, and required to achieve justice, it is essential you seek the advice of an experienced Atlanta, Georgia will challenge lawyer to dispute the validity of the decedent’s Georgia will. Acting fast may save your Georgia inheritance and the inheritance of others.

Undue influence is often suspected upon administration of the decedent’s estate, but in other instances when noticed early on, the person exerting undue influence can be stopped before a will is executed. The Atlanta, Georgia will challenge lawyers at The Libby Law Firm are fiercely qualified to represent you in any Atlanta probate or estate lawsuit to invalidate a will. Our GA probate attorneys work throughout Atlanta and the more rural parts of Georgia.
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In my Marietta, and Atlanta, Georgia, Will Contest Law Practice, which includes Will Contest Litigation in Lawrenceville, the Buckhead Area, Dunwoody, Decatur, Sandy Springs, Kennesaw, Smyrna, Duluth, Cumming, Canton, Alpharetta, Roswell, and other Cities and Counties throughout Georgia, I counsel clients on many aspects of Georgia probate law; including Georgia Will Contests (also referred to as Georgia Will Challenges and Georgia Will Litigation). Once Georgia probate proceeding have begun, all interested parties have a determined amount of time to challenge an existing will, which has been offered up to the court for it’s authenticity and to be the will control the Decedent’s Estate.

A person challenging a Georgia will can do so under several common scenarios. The existence of a more recent will, incapacity of the testator, undue influence exerted on the testator, incorrect execution of the will and fraud are several scenarios that are commonly recognized reasons in Georgia for invalidating a Will. When contesting a Georgia Will based on fraud, the person filing the objection is required to prove that the deceased was deceived by fraudulent misrepresentation at the time the will was executed. This is also sometimes referred to as the Testator laboring under mistake of facts, which had the truth been known, the Testator would have not executed the Will or made a different will. Evidence of the motive or opportunity to commit fraud by itself is not sufficient to deem the will invalid. Proving the effect of the fraud on the testator is critical.

Under Georgia probate law, the Fraud necessary for contesting a Georgia will can be committed that either influences the facts that move the testator to draft the will in a certain way (inducement) or the act of fraud can directly affect the execution of the will. In the instance of inducement, a third party might convince the testator to leave assets to them under false pretenses. For example, a sibling might gain sympathy from his dying brother, the testator, citing imminent bankruptcy. If the bankruptcy is not real and the testator leaves property to his sibling in the will because of this lie, then the will can be contested under the scenario of fraud.

Execution of a will can be manipulated so that the will is deemed invalid. This type of manipulation in the execution of the will is considered fraud when intentionally done. Causing improper signature of a will by purposely misguiding the testator or witnesses during the signing of the will is one example of how this type of fraud can occur. Also an individual that is being left out of a will may try to prevent the Georgia testator from executing a will. This is also an example of fraud. Further, one of the most obvious examples of fraud in the execution of the will is forgery or removing pages from the will and replacing them with pages that have dispositions different than the Testator intended. Oftentimes, this is why you will see lawyers have the Testator initial each page of the Will and place the final (and only) set of staple in the Will after it has been duly executed and each page initialed. Further, some lawyers will seal the will in an envelope in such a way to ensure that if someone had gained access to the Will, there would be obvious tampering to the envelope the Will was put in immediately after executed.
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In my many years as a Georgia probate attorney, I have come to believe that no matter how big or small an estate, Georgia will contests are here to stay. The typical will contest usually arises from some perceived unequal disposition of estate assets. Most of the time, distraught heirs, or beneficiaries will have their own ideas and theories regarding the unequal or unfair disposition of estate assets. However, they leave it to the Georgia will litigation lawyers to find the legal terminology and reasoning to substantiate their claim(s). While it seems many Georgia lawyers and layperson are rather indifferent to will contests and see them as nothing more than greed at its worst, I feel and see something totally different.

In my Georgia Probate Litigation law firm, I find a great amount of unique justice in seeking out a defendant who has taken it upon himself or herself to engage in illegal activity to cause a person to alter their free and voluntary making of their will, and thus alter the disposition of their estate. Thus, while the biggest stake in the result of Georgia will contest is without a doubt monetary, it is significant to convey that relationships between family members may be damaged. Even in tight-knit families, it is common to see infighting over estate assets due to emotional issues such as who was a certain parent’s “favorite” child.

To ensure that your assets are distributed as you wish, it is wise to implement a few strategies, such as the following:

Avoid using joint accounts that can disinherit children inadvertently: Many elderly people put a child or close relative on bank accounts for easy access and routine handling of affairs. Joint accounts pass directly to the joint account holder upon death of the primary account holder, so it is better to set up financial powers of attorney that give others the ability to help you without them being joint property owners.

Choose an impartial executor to administer your will: Commonly family members are asked to administer wills, which can create damage to family relations. A wise choice is to use a bank as executor. While this does carry a cost, many disputes can be avoided and self-dealing by the executor will not be a problem.

Try to treat children equally in the will: Unequal distribution of estate assets will likely cause friction between the children. This is because children often believe that their inheritance is a direct reflection of their parents’ love for them. When a child feels left out or cheated, he is likely to imagine that one or more siblings manipulated the parent. It is possible that this will result in a will contest.

Discuss big inheritance issues before they are written into the will: You should not need to discuss every detail of your will within your will. However, any unusual distributions in your will should be explained and documented. Disclosing these items in advance allows for your children to assimilate the information to understand the motivation behind the decision. Avoid going into detail about your decisions and make sure it is done with the assistance of a professional. Doing so may hurt your child’s feelings, which could trigger a will contest later on during probate proceedings. However, be careful not to induce an environment where there are attempts to influence you because of being open about your will and what will happen when you die. Be careful, this theory has a double-edged twist if proper protocol is not followed. (NOTE: Doing this with assistance is a must).

Give sentimental gifts to your children while you are alive, and equally: Let each heir know what you are giving to the other heirs. This strategy will allow you to see your heirs enjoying these precious items and can prevent Georgia probate disputes. This can also have tax benefits Continue reading →

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As an Atlanta Estate and Probate Attorney, many of my clients come to me for counsel during the difficult time following a loved one’s death. Confusion over how the Georgia probate process works and conflicts of interest between heirs and/or beneficiaries can make this process painful and complicated. During the Georgia probate process, assets from the estate will be distributed and any disputes between heirs or beneficiaries regarding estate assets will be resolved. The process of probate varies by state. In Georgia, the law is somewhat straightforward, but still extremely complicated for most any non-lawyer.

For a better understanding of the probate process, it is important to clarify a few commonly used terms:

Probate: the court proceedings that prove a Will to be the last valid Will of the decedent – it is also the process of administering the decedent’s estate
• Decedent: a person who has died
Estate: all of the decedent’s property, including personal property and real estate
• Heirs: in the absence of a Will, those persons who have a just claim to the property in the estate of the decedent
Beneficiary: a person who is identified in the Will to receive property from the decedent’s estate

• Will: a signed, legal document that states how the decedent wishes to distribute his property after death
• Testate: when a person dies and did write a Will
• Intestate: when the decedent did not write a Will, or when the Will is invalid
Executor: the person named in the Will to administer the decedent’s estate

• Administrator With Will Annexed: the person assigned by the court to administer the decedent’s estate when a Will exists, but has not named an Executor, or in the case that the Executor named is unwilling or unable to serve this duty
Administrator: when there is no Will, this is the person assigned by the court to administer the decedent’s estate
• Escheat: in the case that no heirs make claims to all or some part of the property in an estate, the state will receive the unclaimed property

Georgia probate proceedings usually are held in the Georgia county where the decedent permanently resided at the time of death. The county probate court will verify that the will presented in the proceedings is valid and that it is the last will that was written by the decedent. Once the will is verified, or in a case where there is no will, the probate court will oversee the distribution of the estate’s assets. When the decedent dies with a will, the estate will be administered in accordance with the decedent’s wishes that are expressed in the will. Should the decedent die without a will, Georgia’s Intestacy Statutes provide the scheme for distribution of estate assets. This usually means that the surviving spouse and children will receive the percentages of property first, followed by parents, siblings, and other family members.

The time that the probate process takes can run between seven or eight months for simple estates, to several years for more complex estates. During the process, the executor or administrator will identify the assets in the estate, perform an appraisal of those assets and pay any debts and taxes owed by the estate. Only after these steps are completed can the remaining property be distributed to the heirs and/or beneficiaries. Disputes between the parties involved over how these duties are performed will lengthen the process. The normal expenses incurred in probate, including the payment of debts and taxes, are paid out of the estate’s assets. Legal fees are also usually paid from estate assets.

The clarity with which a will is written will affect the duration and outcome of the process. Working with a qualified Georgia Estate lawyer to define exactly how your estate’s assets will be distributed is critical. If you are named as Executor or Administrator of an estate, a lawyer can explain your duties under Georgia Probate Law, help you fill out court forms and send the required probate notices. An attorney can also help you to meet all court deadlines. When issues between heirs and/or beneficiaries seem likely, or when they do come up, an experienced Probate litigation lawyer should be consulted so that delays in the proceedings, and additional costs, can be avoided.
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As an Atlanta, Georgia wills, trusts and estate litigation lawyer, I am often asked by potential clients to determine if any undue influence has occurred with respect to a Georgia will, trust, power of attorney; or, other legal document. Our Atlanta, Georgia probate and estate lawyers have pending will contest cases in Atlanta, Georgia (Fulton County) Decatur, Georgia (DeKalb County), Marietta, Georgia (Cobb County), Lawrenceville, Georgia (Gwinnett County) and Macon, Georgia (Bibb County). As such, I have seen a common theme in the Georgia law being used to litigate these cases. While I am of the strong opinion there is typically no one factor which in and of itself can establish undue influence, there are a number of factors, which should absolutely be considered.

In determining and establishing undue influence in a Georgia probate court, or other Georgia state court, many of the relevant factors to consider in determining whether or not undue influence exists include the following:

• The existence of a confidential relationship between the parties;

• The reasonableness or unreasonableness of the testator’s disposition of his estate;

• The testator’s dealings and associations with the beneficiary;

• The testator’s habits, motives, or feelings, and his physical and mental strengths or weaknesses;

• The testator’s family, social, and business relations;

• The manner and conduct of the testator; and
• Any other fact or circumstance that shows the exercise of undue influence on the mind and will of a testator, including evidence as to the bad character of the person(s) exerting the influence.

Under Georgia Law, a transaction is recognized to be the result of undue influence when the parties are in a confidential relationship with each other and one party has a superior mental capability than the party who is the victim of the undue influence.

There are many circumstances under which the undue influence may occur. Moreover, undue influence can take place in a variety of manners, modes of operation, and under many circumstances. Likewise, the parties who are exerting the undue influence can come from many surprising and unusual relationships or associations with the decedent.

As an Atlanta, Georgia wills, trusts and estate litigation attorney, I feel the variables should be evaluated collectively to determine the existence of undue influence. An experienced Georgia estate and probate litigation lawyer who is knowledgeable at assessing all the factors of a potential case should evaluate these variables.

The following are some examples of persons who may be the particularly susceptible to undue influence:

• Persons who are elderly, not competent, naive, gullible or easy to fool
• Persons who have family which live far away
• Persons taking any mind or behavior altering prescription medications, using alcohol or over the counter drugs

• Persons using illegal drugs
• Persons in criminal trouble, with economic or social problems
• Persons who are going through or have gone through major lifestyle changes such as moving, divorce, becoming disabled, etc.

• Persons who have friends or persons who tend to take advantage of their favorable monetary situation
• Persons who are not good with handling their economic affairs or otherwise not good with money
• Persons who are too trusting and not protective of themselves

It is important to understand, there is no standard list of the type of persons susceptible to undue influence. Likewise, there is no standard or norm for persons who engage in exerting undue influence. What is important is that if you suspect undue influence is occurring, is likely to occur, or you believe it has occurred in the disposition of a decedent’s estate or before the decedent’s death, then you should immediately contact an experienced Atlanta, Georgia, wills, trusts, and estate lawyer.

As a beneficiary or heir of an estate, you have options and legal rights under Georgia state law to have a will or other document declared null and void and set aside, recover assets and/or monies, damages, and possibly attorney’s fees. The Libby Law Firm represents heirs, and beneficiaries, in all Georgia wills, trusts, probate and estate disputes and litigation. We provide experienced legal representation through exceptional Atlanta Probate Attorneys. Our Firm has many decades of combined experience through its experienced Atlanta Probate attorneys and staff. We can assist you whether you are an heir or beneficiary. We also represent executors, administrators, and personal representatives in wills, trusts, and estate litigation matters.
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The Will Contest and Litigation Lawyers at, The Libby Law Firm are skilled, experienced and resourceful. We have seen a steady increase in the rise of Georgia probate law based claims against Georgia Probate Court appointed executors for inventory and accounting, removal, money damages, and more. Georgia probate court executors have significant liability by assuming this position.

To the contrary, Georgia heir and beneficiaries have significant rights to know the what, where, when, and how of the estate’s status. They also have the right to force the executor to compile and Georgia estate inventory and accounting even if this is specifically not required by the will. The Georgia estate executor can incur personal liability if money or assets can not be accounted for and will likely incur personal liability for these monies and assets.

The basic remedies against Georgia Probate Court appointed executors can be found in The Official Code of Georgia Annotated (“O.C.G.A.”) § 53-7-54, which reads as follows:

(a) If a personal representative or temporary administrator commits a breach of fiduciary duty or threatens to commit a breach of fiduciary duty, a beneficiary of a testate estate or heir of an intestate estate shall have a cause of action:

(1) To recover damages;

(2) To compel the performance of the personal representative´s or temporary administrator´s duties;

(3) To enjoin the commission of a breach of fiduciary duty;

(4) To compel the redress of a breach of fiduciary duty by payment of money or otherwise;

(5) To appoint another personal representative or temporary administrator to take possession of the estate property and administer the estate;

(6) To remove the personal representative or temporary administrator; and

(7) To reduce or deny compensation to the personal representative or temporary administrator.

(b) When estate assets are misapplied and can be traced in the hands of persons affected with notice of misapplication, a trust shall attach to the assets.

(c) The provision of remedies for breach of fiduciary duty by this Code section does not prevent resort to any other appropriate remedy provided by statute or common law.

Even if you follow the necessary probate steps, there are times when you can find yourself involved in an Atlanta probate dispute or estate dispute. Some of these situations include, but are not limited to:

• Breach of Fiduciary Duty

• Interference with Inheritance

• Fraudulent Conveyance

• Misappropriation of funds, estate assets, estate inventory

• Self-dealing

• Conversion

• Negligence

• Accounting Claims

• And more

As an Atlanta Lawyer Atlanta, Georgia probate lawyer, I know that when a loved one has passed away, the process of going through the legal system to determine and distribute their estate can be a tremendous challenge. This process, for better or worse, is known as the Georgia probate process (commonly referred to as “probate”). Whether there is a will or not the Georgia court will assess the properties and pay off any outstanding debts before distributing the estate. First, however, they must determine if the will is valid, before assessing the amount of debts or taxes owed. Fortunately, the State of Georgia Probate Courts have made the probate process very easy and relatively inexpensive. Nevertheless, it is prudent to retain an experienced Atlanta, Georgia probate lawyer or Atlanta, Georgia estate attorney to ensure the probate process proceeds smoothly, fairly, and without incident.



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The Atlanta lawyers at The Libby Law Firm are experienced in defending clients in disputes over the provisions of wills and administration of estate assets. Parties that can be defended in a will contest include the estate, beneficiaries, heirs or personal representatives. But it is usually heirs or beneficiaries who challenge a will, especially if they are slated to receive less from the estate than what they had originally anticipated. Once notice of the death or petition to begin probate proceedings is served, any parties interested in filing a will contest may come forward. The Libby Law Firm files Georgia Will Contests Caveat Petitions and just as often, their Atlanta Office defends Will Contests. As such, whatever role we engage on behalf of our client in will contest litigation, you can be assured, we know what opposing counsel is thinking and what their objectives are. Oftentimes, our Atlanta, Georgia will contest defense lawyers use tactics such as mediation, enhanced discovery, to catch opposing counsel of guard and to throw the theory of their case off balance, oftentimes, making them start over or think again about whether contesting the will in question.

Many conditions can provoke a Georgia will contest, including:

• The Testator’s Mental Capacity – if the deceased was not considered to be of sound mind and body when the will was executed

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In my Atlanta, Georgia Probate Law practice, I counsel many clients on the procedures that Georgia’s probate law dictates. Heirs and beneficiaries frequently ask questions about the duties of personal representatives in the probate process. A personal representative is either named in the will as an executor (and usually called an executor as opposed to a personal representative), or appointed by the court as an administrator. An administrator is appointed when no will exists, if an executor was not named in the will, or in the case that the named executor is unfit to serve. Personal representatives have a fiduciary duty to perform the required tasks of probate in a way that treats heirs and beneficiaries fairly. Nevertheless, personal representatives are almost always referred to as an executor or administrator. In short, an executor or administrator is a personal representative and the Official Code of Georgia gives them this title. What is more, is that personal representatives must give an inventory and/or accounting to heirs or beneficiaries who have a legitimate concern or reason to know about the estates assets.

However, as a Georgia Probate, Wills, Trusts, and Estates Lawyer, what is problematic to me when it comes to an executor or administrator, is that there are so many situations where the heirs or beneficiaries do not hire a lawyer and demand an inventory or accounting merely because the Will or Letters of Administration state that the executor, administrator, or personal representative is relieved from performing this duty.


The general list of tasks of Georgia personal representatives includes taking control of the estate’s assets, paying off the estate’s debts and administration expenses, selling estate assets to pay debts and expenses (or to distribute assets more efficiently), filing tax returns on behalf of the estate, distributing assets to beneficiaries and heirs, filing any required reports (including an inventory and accounting), and applying for discharge from office. The first step of taking control of the estate’s assets is critical. In this step, the personal representative must identify, locate, and value the estate’s assets. Without this information, no determination can be made regarding how to distribute the estate and the probate process would stall.

During the stressful time surrounding the death of a loved one, friend, or business associate, it is common to lack the focus necessary to deal with probate proceedings. Under stress, beneficiaries and heirs may sign documentation without the proper legal review, which can cause them to waive certain rights. The right to an inventory and accounting of estate assets is one of the rights that is sometimes waived unknowingly.
Even when a personal representative succeeds in getting an heir or beneficiary to sign a waiver that forfeits their right to an inventory and accounting, it is important to know that the waiver can be renounced afterward and an inventory and accounting can be demanded. Once you have waived this right, it is important to retain an Atlanta Probate Lawyer to assist you in acquiring an inventory and accounting that is true, accurate, and complete.

To renounce this type of waiver, an experienced Georgia probate attorney can assist in filing a petition for inventory and accounting that forces the personal representative to release this information. Another way that heirs and beneficiaries are left out during the probate process is through the instructions given in the will. Sometimes wills state that the executor is not required to give an inventory and accounting to heirs and beneficiaries. While this may be included in some wills as a result of undue influence over the testator by a third party, heirs, and beneficiaries do have rights under Georgia law to protect against this type of self-dealing. Again, a petition for inventory and accounting can be filed that will give the heirs and beneficiaries access to the asset information.
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Most successful Atlanta will challenge lawyers know every beneficiary will go to great lengths to challenge the mandate of the decedent’s will, but will they risk it all? The answer is likely no.

As a will probate defense lawyer in Atlanta, Georgia, I have represented numerous clients in different types of will contests. Thus, I know it is especially true that most will contest cases involving undue influence usually settle on an agreed amount, rather than letting the case come to an all or nothing verdict. This is because human nature seems to inevitably leave someone with something substantial than one party with nothing and a great deal of embarrassment and fear.

Remember, there is nothing greater than an exceptional Atlanta, Georgia Will Contest Lawyer when the need arises to deflect a Will Contest/Challenge. However, the following are some points to follow and not about the occurrence of undue influence:

Undue influence occurs when the influencing party overcomes the decedent’s free will. This type of strong influence occurs when there is a confidential relationship between those involved and the testator cannot ward off the greater mental capacity of the influencing party. Thus, the confidential nature of the relationship between parties is a key factor.

• Many cases of undue influence occur between parents and children. When a close relationship exists between one child and the parent, it is possible for the child to manipulate the parent into signing a Georgia will that favors that particular child. It is also possible for the influence to come from outside the family, for example from a hired caregiver who spends large amounts of time with the elderly person.

• When faced with a case of undue influence regarding a will, the Georgia probate court will examine the mental state of the deceased at the time that the will was executed.

• the decedent was easily influenced, due to age, health or general mental state

• the person suspected of undue influence had an opportunity to coerce or manipulate the victim

• the person suspected of undue influence had the motive or disposition to influence the victim

• the person suspected of undue influence was actively involved in creating the will

• the will appears to have been influenced

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