What is the legal procedure to contest a will’s validity in court?

My uncle made a will before his death and left all of his immovable properties, bank accounts and shares to a charity that takes care of disabled and abandoned children. Aggrieved by this decision, his son, who is my cousin, and my aunt want to know if they can contest the will. They claim that my uncle had before his death spoken about transferring some assets to his son.

—Name withheld on request

We assume that the deceased, your uncle, was a Hindu and that he was survived by his wife and son. However, in your Uncle’s will, we understand that he has bequeathed all his estate/ properties to the charities thereby not giving any bequest to the legitimate heirs of your uncle.

You may note that there is no embargo or restrictions under the Hindu Succession Act for bequeathing the entire estate for charitable purposes.

Therefore, unless and until the son and his spouse are able to prove before the court that the will was made by fraud or coercion, the disposition/ bequest made under the will cannot be disregarded by the court.

A man whom I know made a will before his death and left all of his properties to his first son, and nothing for the second son or his only daughter. His daughter thinks the will has been tampered with and wants to know the legal procedure to contest the will.

—Name withheld on request

A will can be validly made by any adult of sound mind. The testamentary or dispositive capacity must be proved to the satisfaction of the court. Further, the will must be made of the testator’s volition, absent of fraud, coercion, undue influence or other factors that take away the testator’s free agency. 

There is no form, but its execution must be attested by at least two witnesses at the direction of the testator; each witness must attest the will in the presence of the testator, though both need not be present at the same time. Proof of a will means its proof in its solemn form. Such proof can only be established by complying with all these requirements and adducing evidence to prove it.

Therefore, unless and until the daughter can prove before the court that the will of Deceased was executed by fraud or coercion or undue influence which took away the free will of the testator, the bequest made under the will cannot be declared as unnatural or invalid by the court.

Aradhana Bhansali is partner, Rajani Associates.

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Updated: 14 Nov 2023, 10:22 PM IST

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