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My father is the eldest of three brothers, one of whom died some time ago. My aunt, too, passed away  and the couple did not have any legal heirs. My grandfather, who was bedridden since 1998, had executed a Will under pressure from his third son. Two of the four family properties were bequeathed to my uncle. The other two properties were to be shared equally between my father and  uncle.  Am I eligible to challenge this Will executed by my grandfather?

— Name withheld on request

 

Firstly, it is your father who should initiate challenge proceedings against the Will of your grandfather as he is the beneficiary. 

Further, merely because your grandfather bequeathed more properties to your uncle, it cannot be a ground for setting aside the Will and having it declared as void/invalid. 

A Will can be set aside and declared void only if it was caused to be made by fraud, coercion, or by such importunity that takes away the free agency of the testator. 

In your case, your uncle forcefully got his father to execute the Will when he was bedridden. A challenge to the same will lie in testamentary proceedings that your father may initiate in respect of the Will. 

However, the burden of proving that your uncle exercised undue influence on your grandfather to execute the Will forcefully will be on your father and has to be proved by cogent evidence led by your father. 

We are not aware of the date of demise of your grandfather. However, if his death happened in 1998, then the period of limitation may also be one of the issues for challenging the will of your grandfather today.

In so far as your father’s claim to the self-acquired properties of the deceased uncle (and which are presently in the custody of the other uncle) is concerned, the same will depend on whether he and his wife left behind a Will or not. In case, they did not do so, your father can claim a share in those properties, being one of the legal heirs, and by taking recourse to separate legal proceedings in that behalf.

Aradhana Bhansali is a partner, Rajani Associates.

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