A will is a legal document that specifies how a person's assets and property will be distributed after their death. In India, a will can be contested if there are disputes over its validity or the distribution of assets. The Indian Succession Act, 1925, provides the legal framework for the making and contesting of wills in India.
Anyone with an interest in the will, such as beneficiaries, heirs, or creditors, can challenge its validity in court on various grounds such as lack of testamentary capacity, improper execution, fraud or forgery, or disputes over property. It is important to seek legal advice when contesting a will in India as it can be a complex legal process.
In this article, we will explore these grounds in detail and discuss how they can be used to challenge the validity of a will in India.
Common Grounds On Which A Will Can Be Challenged In India
1. Lack of Capacity
In India, a lack of capacity is a valid ground for challenging a will. If the person making the will (the testator) did not have the mental capacity to understand the nature and consequences of their actions when creating the will, it may be considered invalid. In such cases, the burden of proving the lack of capacity rests on the person contesting the will. They must provide evidence to show that the testator did not have the required mental capacity at the time of making the will. The court will consider all relevant factors, such as the testator's age, mental condition, and whether they were under the influence of any medication or drugs at the time of making the will. If the court finds that the testator lacked capacity, the will may be invalidated.
2. Undue Influence & fraudulent will
Undue influence and fraudulent will are valid grounds for challenging a will in India. If the testator was coerced, threatened, or unduly influenced by someone to create a will that does not reflect their true intentions, the will may be considered invalid. Similarly, if the will was created through fraud or misrepresentation, it may also be challenged. In both cases, the burden of proving undue influence or fraud lies on the person challenging the will.
3. Mistake or ambiguity
If there are errors or ambiguities in a will, it can be challenged on the basis of uncertainty or misunderstanding. These may be errors in the testator's instructions or ambiguities in the language used in the will.
4. Improper execution of the will
A will can be challenged if it lacks essential elements of the legal requirements set out in the Indian Inheritance Act 1925. It must be a written document duly signed by the testator in the presence of two witnesses. Wills must be dated, as a new will with a later date will invalidate the previous will.
5.Coercion or duress
Under section 61 of the Indian Inheritance Act 1925, a will is void if obtained by duress or undue influence depriving the testator of his free will. This means that if a person has been coerced or coerced into writing a will, or has been deceived or misled in any way, the will can be challenged as invalid.
6. Inconsistency with Indian law
A will can also be challenged on this ground if the terms of the will are inconsistent with Indian laws. For example, if a will seeks to disinherit a child or spouse, it may be considered invalid because Indian law provides certain protections for children and spouses.
Section 62 of the Indian Succession Act of 1925 provides for the revocation or alteration of a will during the lifetime of the testator. A testator may choose to revoke or alter their will at any time during their lifetime, provided they have the testamentary capacity to do so.
If a testator revokes their will, either by destroying the original or by making a new will that revokes the previous one, the previous will is no longer valid. However, it is important to note that only the parts of the new will that are inconsistent with the old will are liable to be challenged in court. The parts of the new will that are consistent with the old will remain valid. If a testator wishes to alter their will, they can do so by making a codicil, which is a document that amends or adds to the original will. A codicil must be executed with the same formalities as a will and must be properly witnessed and signed.
It is important to note that revocation or alteration of a will must be done voluntarily and without any undue influence, fraud, or coercion. If there is any evidence of fraud, undue influence, or coercion involved in the revocation or alteration of a will, it may be challenged in court. A will may be challenged if it is shown to have been prepared by tampering, fraud, or criminal influence and the will to negotiate has been overridden by manipulators.
A person contesting a will is required to prove that if the document had been prepared as a result of a fraudulent practice, the testator could have been deceived into signing it.
8. Fraudulent inducement
Induction of fraud, which is a special type of fraud that can be used as grounds for contesting a will in India. This happens when a person is tricked into making or revoking a will based on false or misleading information. This may include giving false information about the testator's intentions, assets, or mental capacity, or presenting a forged or altered document as the testator's will. If the court finds that fraudulent incitement has been committed, the will may be declared invalid.
In a situation where a person is concerned about who will inherit all of their hard-earned money upon their death, it is crucial to consult with a will lawyer. Therefore, in a country like India, if a person finds the drafted will unsatisfactory, they have the right to challenge the registered will in court with the assistance of a will lawyer to ensure that no wrongdoing occurs.
What is the time limit for challenging a will in India?
In India, the time limit for contesting a will depends on the circumstances of the case and the grounds for contesting the will. If a will is challenged for fraud, misrepresentation, or undue influence, the time limit is generally three years from the date of the death of the testator or the date on which the fraud, misrepresentation, or undue influence arose. discovered, whichever is later. If a will is contested on other grounds, such as intestate, error, or improper execution, the law does not specify a specific time limit but recommends that the testator execute the will as soon as possible after death or once the grounds for discord are known. It is important to note that these time limits are not absolute and the courts have the discretion to extend the time limits in certain circumstances.
Who can challenge a will in India?
In India, any person who has a direct or indirect interest in the estate of the deceased can challenge a will. This includes heirs, beneficiaries, and legal representatives of the deceased. However, the person challenging the will must have legal standing, which means that they must demonstrate that they have a legitimate claim to the estate or a share of it. Additionally, the person challenging the will must have valid grounds for doing so, such as lack of capacity, undue influence, fraud, or coercion. Finally, the challenge must be filed within a certain time frame, as there are statutes of limitations for contesting a will in India.
What is the procedure for challenging a will in India?
The first step to challenging a will is filing suit under Section 18 of the Registration Act. The next step is issuing Vakalatnama which gives the lawyer authority to represent their client in court. After that, court fees have to be paid. After the case is accepted in court, it issues a notice to the opposite party to appear in court. File all the necessary documents asked by the court to support your challenge. If the challenge is successful, the Will will be declared invalid and the distribution is done according to intestacy laws.
Can a will be challenged if it is registered?
Yes, a will can be challenged even if it is registered. Registration of a will does not necessarily make it immune to challenge. If there are grounds to believe that the will was created under undue influence, coercion, or fraud, or if the testator could not make the will, it can still be challenged regardless of its registration status. However, a registered will is presumed to be genuine unless there is sufficient evidence to the contrary, which means that it may be more difficult to challenge compared to an unregistered will.
Can a will be challenged after the death of the testator?
Yes, a will can be challenged after the death of the testator. In India, a will can be challenged within a certain time frame, which varies from state to state. However, once the time for challenging the will has passed, it becomes final and binding.
What happens if a will is Successfully challenged in India?
If a will is successfully challenged in India, it may be declared invalid by the court. In such cases, the estate of the deceased will be distributed according to the laws of intestate succession, which determine how the property is to be distributed in the absence of a valid will. The distribution will typically be among the legal heirs of the deceased, as determined by the personal laws applicable to the deceased.