If my father died recently,and he had a Will that left my brother and I his house and property, what rights does my stepbrother have?

Along comes our half-brother who is contesting the Will. He came to see my dad late in his life and I think he feels somethings owed to him. Does he have any rights?

Asked on August 11, 2014 under Estate Planning, Massachusetts


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

A will is enforceable, even when it excludes family members, including children. That's the general legal rule. Where your step- or half-brother  *may* be able to challenge it, depending on the specifics of this situation are:

1) If the will was not properly executed (signed) and witnessed, he can challenge its validity;

2) If there is an ambiguity (unclear provisions) in the will, he could try to get a court to interpret them in a way that favors or helps him;

3) If people who inherit under the will (e.g. you and your brother) were in a positio to exert undue influence over your father while he was drafting the will--for example, say he was in poor health and you were his caregivers--that  could provide a basis for challenging the will due to undue influence.

4) If you father was arguably not mentally incompentent (e.g. he had early state senile dementia) when the will was drafted and signed, he may be able to challenge on the grounds of lack of capacity to enter into a will.

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