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Will & Trust Contests

5-Star Will Contest & Trust Dispute Attorneys

Top Wills & Trusts Attorneys in Austin,
Providing Extraordinary Counsel & Service

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Todd A. Wilson

Wills & Trusts Lawyer

Contests to wills and trusts can open up complex, high-stakes disputes while raising serious questions about the creation of an estate plan or certain devices within it. In some cases, raising will or trust contests may be a judicious and necessary move, shining an important light on fraud or other wrongdoings. Whether you need to raise or defend against a will contest or a trust dispute, you could be facing a complicated conflict with uncompromising deadlines, strict rules, and multiple court proceedings. 


You can protect your interests and navigate the process with more confidence with the Law Office of Todd A. Wilson, also known as TAW Law Texas, on your side. Our Austin wills and trusts attorneys have vast experience representing and counseling clients through all types of will contests and trust disputes


We work with beneficiaries, fiduciaries, and others, offering exceptional advocacy, guidance, and support at every step of the process.


Free Consultations   •   5-Star Wills & Trusts Attorneys in Austin, TX


Call 512-827-9212 or Contact Us Online for a FREE Consultation


Get more answers about the grounds, deadlines, standing, and other facets of will contests and trust disputes below. Feel free to contact our highly skilled Austin lawyers for a free confidential consultation whenever you are ready for insights and information related to your situation.

Will Contests & Trust Disputes: FAQs


At the Law Office of Todd A. Wilson, also known as TAW Law TX, we specialize in representing clients in nearly every type of will contest and trust dispute, offering strategic, personalized counsel and value-focused representation in Travis County, Williamson County, Hays County, Bastrop County, and surrounding areas.


Highlighting what will contests and trust disputes can entail and how our Austin attorneys can help you through the process, here are some helpful FAQs.

What Are Will Contests & Trust Disputes?

Will contests and trust disputes are essentially fights over some aspect or the entirety of a will document or a trust device. Typically involving beneficiaries, will and trust contests can: 


  • Arise soon after death: When the maker of a will or trust passes away, beneficiaries can be notified of the terms of a will or a trust. At that point, beneficiaries may have critical questions and concerns about their inheritance, especially if the decedent had expressed different wishes to them than what is documented in the terms of a will or trust.
  • Be raised years following a death: Texas Estates Code §256.204 provides two years from the date the will was admitted to probate to raise a will contest. There may be more or less time to pursue trust contests, depending on the type of dispute being raised. 


Notably, will and trust disputes can uncover misdeeds, wrongdoings, and attempts to rob beneficiaries of the inheritance and distributions their loved ones would have wanted them to have. Still, these disputes are not intended to be inquiries for those who are simply unhappy with the terms of a will or trust or who don’t like the inheritance left to them.


Texas laws establish specific grounds for raising will contests and trust disputes, and those who bring these actions should generally expect to have evidence to support the allegations they’re making. The Austin wills and trusts lawyers at TAW Law Texas have deep experience with these cases, and we know how to establish various positions, backed by credible evidence, when it’s time to go to court. 

Who Can Challenge a Will or a Trust in Texas?

Those who can challenge a will or raise trust disputes in Texas need to have “standing” under state law to bring these claims in court. Standing, according to Texas Estate Code Sec. 55.001, applies to:


  • Beneficiaries: Those named in will or trust documents as beneficiaries can challenge the validity of wills and trusts when there may be multiple will documents in play or when late-in-life amendments raise questions related to mental capacity or undue influence on the part of the testator (will maker) or grantor (trust maker).
  • Disinherited individuals: When new versions of wills or trusts cut out some beneficiaries altogether, those parties may have standing to raise will or trust contests. Similarly, if some parties were left out of wills or trusts via omission or terms stipulating that they get nothing, these individuals may also have standing to bring challenges to wills and trusts.
  • Intestate heirs: With will contests specifically, those who would inherit an estate in the absence of a will (i.e., “intestate heirs”) may also have grounds to bring will contests. In particular, these parties can include a decedent’s spouse, parents, and children. Any of these individuals could raise a challenge to a Texas will if they believe that the current will is not valid or legal and that the estate would be distributed more fairly under Texas intestacy laws.  


If an individual without standing attempts to contest a will or dispute a trust in Texas, their claim will usually be dismissed.

What Are the Grounds to Challenge Wills in Texas?

To contest a will in Texas, an individual not only needs to have standing (described in detail above), but they also must have grounds to challenge the will, meaning a reasonable basis for taking this legal action. There are a handful of grounds for challenging wills in Texas, and:


  1. All grounds pertain to the creation, execution, or revision of a will document.
  2. Grounds for will contests are all aimed at questioning the validity or legality of the will.
  3. A party with legal standing only needs one ground to challenge a will in Texas. In other words, if one ground to contest a will exists, that is generally sufficient to bring a claim and challenge a will in Texas courts.
  4. If the will contest is successful, part or all of the will can be invalidated. If that happens, an older will document or Texas intestacy laws may come into play.  


The grounds to contest a will in Texas include the following: 


  1. Failure to draft a will according to Texas law: Texas law specifies how wills must be created and executed in order to be deemed legal under state law and in Texas probate courts. In particular, Texas wills must be written and fully executed by the testator, with proper legal witnesses who have signed the will in the presence of the testator. If the will does not fulfill those requirements, it may not be a valid will under Texas law, and there can be viable grounds for challenging that will.
  2. Lack of mental capacity: Valid wills in Texas must be created by testators who understand what they are doing and who are of sound mind when they are drafting or updating their wills. If a will maker doesn’t understand they are creating a will or if they don’t comprehend how their estate will be distributed to their beneficiaries, there can be grounds for will contests based on lack of mental capacity. Here, medical conditions, medical records, and witness statements can be helpful evidence in understanding a testator’s mental capacity at the time they made the will (or updated it).
  3. Undue influence: Wills made by testators who were coerced or somehow strongarmed into signing these documents can also be invalid under Texas law. In other words, to be legal in Texas, wills have to be created from a testator’s own free will. Often, proving undue influence can hinge on showing last-minute changes, the vulnerability of the decedent, or newly added beneficiaries, like caregivers or romantic partners.
  4. Forgery: Part or all of will documents can be counterfeit, with forgers attempting to craft new terms, fake signatures, or even entirely new forged wills. In these cases, inconsistencies in what the testator said, shared, or wrote can help uncover the truth. So can witness statements, handwriting samples, and other evidence.
  5. Fraud: Fraud can arise in wills when testators are tricked into signing new or updated will documents based on false information provided by some party. If some material misrepresentation was part of the will, this fraud may also serve as the basis for invalidating the will or some of its terms.


Please be aware that it is not always clear when grounds to challenge wills may be present — and that pursuing will contests based on any of these grounds will require evidence of the allegations raised. Either way, working with an experienced attorney can be crucial to understanding the laws, crafting the strongest position, and safeguarding your interests going forward. 


The Austin probate lawyers at TAW Law Texas have represented various parties in will challenges and trust disputes, providing strategic representation and client-focused counsel aimed at the best resolutions possible.

What Are the Grounds to Challenge Trusts in Texas?

The grounds for trust disputes in Texas depend on whether the challenge relates to: 


  1. The validity of the trust: Similar to wills, trusts can be the subject of validity disputes, with beneficiaries or others raising challenges based on allegations of undue influence, duress, coercion, or lack of mental capacity on the part of a grantor.
  2. The administration of the trust: With these trust disputes, the validity of the trust is not in question, but how a trustee is administering the trust is. Specifically, these trust disputes tend to center on allegations of breach of fiduciary duty, meaning the trustee is allegedly mismanaging the trust, mishandling funds, or failing to abide by the rules of the trust or Texas law. 


There are strict deadlines for raising both types of trust disputes in Texas, and: 


  • Beneficiaries may raise challenges to trust amendments.
  • Trust contests don’t have to wait until it’s time to distribute assets. Beneficiaries can challenge trusts before trust distributions are made.
  • If a trust contest is successful, an amendment to a trust — or the entire trust — could be invalidated. 

Are Trusts More Difficult to Challenge in Court Than Wills?

In terms of trust contests versus will contests, yes, in general, trusts tend to be more difficult to contest than wills in Texas. That’s usually due to factors like (and not limited to): 


  • Grantors: If the contest involves a living trust, the grantor is still living and can, therefore, easily weigh in to resolve disputes over the trust they have established.
  • Trustees: As third-party fiduciaries, trustees can be involved from the first day trusts take effect, possibly giving trustees more knowledge about the state of mind and/or intentions of a grantor. With that, trustees can be an effective checkpoint or fail-safe when allegations of duress, fraud, or more are levied in trust disputes.
  • Attorneys: When folks set up trusts, they are far more likely to do so with the counsel of an experienced trusts lawyer, rather than trying to form a trust by themselves. On the other hand, it’s not uncommon for people to write wills on the fly, use generic online forms to create wills, or otherwise put together will documents without the help of a lawyer. That can open up more opportunities to argue against the validity of wills. 


Keep in mind that every situation is unique and that: 


  • Some will contests may be astonishingly complex, lasting years and delivering some unexpected twists and turns along the way.
  • No matter how complex a will or trust dispute may be, the representation of an attorney can be invaluable.


A lawyer can explain the process, your rights, and your options at each juncture while also helping you keep a level head, so you can make more informed decisions even in the most heated circumstances. An attorney can also guide and represent you through the ins and outs of these disputes, from crafting a case and submitting court filings and standing up for you in hearings, fighting for you in contentious litigation, and more. 


Whether you’re questioning or headed for a will or trust dispute, the sooner you talk to an Austin attorney at TAW Law Texas, the better. Our team can take prompt action to advise, guide, and support you. We can also do what it takes to protect your rights, advance your case, and set it up for the best possible outcome. 

What Clause Can Prevent Will Contests?

Forfeiture clauses can be included in wills to limit the risk of challenges or contests after the testator passes away. Also known as In terrorem clauses or no contest clauses, these terms generally stipulate that beneficiaries will lose out on their inheritance, as detailed in the will, if:


  • They contest the will.
  • Their challenge to the will is unsuccessful, meaning the will is declared to be valid as is. 


By including no contest clauses in wills, testators can effectively: 


  • Minimize the risk of frivolous or baseless challenges to the will: Disgruntled beneficiaries or those who believe they deserve more may think twice about raising a challenge if a will includes a no contest clause.
  • Limit additional proceedings: Without will challenges raised in probate, the process can advance without extra investigations and hearings. That can keep the process more streamlined, allowing the decedent’s wishes to be carried out more expeditiously, instead of making them the subject of multiple courtroom debates.


Please be aware, however, that no contest clauses should NOT prevent beneficiaries or interested parties from raising legitimate challenges to wills. If there’s reason to suspect forgery, fraud, undue influence, coercion, or some invalidating issue associated with the will: 


  • Challenging the will with some evidence to back it up can be integral to revealing the truth.
  • Courts may acknowledge “good faith” challenges as exceptions to no contest clauses, with judges maintaining the discretion to reject these clauses on a case-by-case basis.


If you are unsure about how a no contest clause works in a given situation — or you’re questioning any aspect of challenge to a will — it’s time to contact an Austin probate attorney at TAW Law Texas. We are well-versed in will contests, forfeiture clauses, and Texas probate, and we’re ready to share answers to help you make more better choices to support your needs and objectives going forward. 

Do I Need a Lawyer for a Will Contest or Trust Dispute in Texas?

If you are serious about protecting your rights and bringing the strongest possible case, regardless of where you stand on the matter, yes, it’s in your best interests to retain an attorney. 


With will and trust disputes in Texas, the truth is that: 


  • There are strict deadlines for bringing these challenges.
  • Those who raise will challenges and trust disputes will have the burden of proof.
  • A lot can be on the line, and these disputes can get heated and incredibly complex very quickly.
  • An experienced wills and trusts lawyer can help you determine your options, the best available strategies, and how to proceed.


Ultimately, an attorney can offer counsel, advice, guidance, and representation, helping to build and present your case in the best possible light. That can be the key to achieving better, if not optimal, outcomes.

Austin Lawyers for Texas Will Contests & Trust Disputes

Talk to an experienced Austin attorney to find out more about your options for navigating the next steps of a will contest, a trust dispute, or probate in Texas.


TAW Law Texas proudly offers exceptional representation, valuable peace of mind, and client-centered service focused on protecting and advancing your interests.


Free Consultations   •   5-Star Wills, Trusts & Probate Lawyers ‘Near Me’ in Austin, TX


Call 512-827-9212 or Contact Us Online for a FREE Consultation