When there’s a will, there’s a way to challenge it, known as a “will contest.” If someone dies and they had a will, their estate goes through the probate process. The probate court is the jurisdiction for challenging a will.
Understanding how this works is important, if you’ve been named as a beneficiary of an estate or you’re concerned that your own will may one day be contested.
KTVA’s recent article, “How to Contest a Will in Probate Court,” explains that any interested party can contest a will, and what qualifies as an interested party is pretty broad. It typically means any person or business that may stand to gain (or lose) an asset, if the will is successfully proven to be invalid. This will include people who may not be named in the will and people who can inherit from it according to the inheritance laws in your state.
There are several reasons why a will may be legally contested during the probate process. Some of the most common grounds are questions about the mental state of the testator, claims of undue influence, suspected fraud or forgery and the possible improper preparation or execution of the will.
Let’s look at the steps in contesting a will:
- Step 1: Research. Be certain that you have grounds to make a challenge. It’s best to work with an experienced probate attorney who knows the laws for contesting a will in your state and whether your reason for wanting to challenge the will is covered by state probate law. He or she will also know how long after a person’s death you have to raise an objection to a will.
- Step 2: Filing Your Petition. To contest a will during probate, you’d need to file a petition to challenge the will in court. An estate planning attorney can also do this for you, if there is a substantial amount of assets at stake or other people are also challenging the will.
- Step 3: Collect Evidence. The court will then set a date to hear your case. Before that occurs, work on gathering evidence to support your claim that the will isn’t valid. The more valid evidence you can gather, the stronger your case may be.
Challenging a will can drag on for months or years. Before contesting a will, decide whether it’s worth your time and money.
For those who are concerned about their own wills being challenged, the best advice will come from an experienced estate planning attorney, who will make sure that the will is properly created. They may also recommend taking some assets out of the estate, by using trusts in a strategic manner.
Reference: KTVA (August 16, 2019) “How to Contest a Will in Probate Court”