How To Contest a Will
When you hear about wills being contested, you may initially think of famous families involved in legal battles over the validity of a will. However, there are various reasons why a will may be challenged, and not all of them involve family disputes. Let’s explore some situations where contesting a will may be deemed necessary.
Situations where challenging a will may apply
- You suspect that the person who wrote the will wasn’t of sound mind. To be legally binding, a will must be created by someone capable of making important decisions and understanding their impact.
- You believe that the will writer was unduly influenced by another person. If someone with power over the writer, such as a caregiver or family member, pressured or manipulated them to write the will, it may be considered invalid.
- You’re not sure whether the document in question was intended to be a will. If there is any doubt that the document is the writer’s will, it can be contested and potentially disregarded.
- The will is incomplete or missing signatures or witnesses. For a will to be legally valid, it must be signed by the writer and witnessed by two individuals who are not named in the document. A will that’s missing essential information or signatures could be considered invalid.
- You suspect that the will is fraudulent or forged.
- Heirs dispute how certain assets are divided in the will. Family members may challenge a will if they feel that the distribution of assets is unfair or incorrect.
Who are ‘interested parties’?
The people who have a right to contest a will are known as “interested parties,” and they typically include individuals who have a potential stake in the estate. This can encompass a variety of individuals, such as those who are named as beneficiaries in the will as well as anyone who may have been included in a previous version of the will but was left out of the most recent one.
In addition, potential heirs who could receive assets under intestacy laws — which often include immediate family members such as a spouse, children, parents, siblings, grandchildren and other extended family members — may also have the right to challenge a will.
Are you considering contesting a will? It can be a complicated process, but one that may be necessary if you believe you’re owed property. The first step is to consider consulting with an estate attorney who can guide you through the process.
Once you decide to move forward, you’ll need to file a claim with the probate court in the county where the will writer died. From there, you’ll need to present your case to the court and provide evidence to support your claim.
It’s important to keep in mind that the time to contest a will, known as the statute of limitations, varies by state and can range from 30 days to several months from the date the will was filed. If the will contains a no-contest clause, you’ll be disinherited if your challenge fails, so it’s crucial to proceed with caution.
While contesting a will can be expensive and doesn’t always succeed, it may be your best chance to recover property owed to you, other than negotiating with the estate or other beneficiaries. If you do succeed, you’ll receive control of the assets you claimed belonged to you.