How to Contest a Will on the Behalf of Minors

by Teo Spengler
A probate court judge hears and decides a will contest.

A probate court judge hears and decides a will contest.

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A will contest is a lawsuit challenging the validity of a will. In many states, only the deceased's heirs have standing to bring a will contest in front of a court -- close family members, including minors, who would inherit if the testator died intestate, or without leaving a will, and others inheriting under the will. Common grounds for a will contest include claims that the will resulted from someone's improper influence or trickery, that the will was not signed in the manner required by state law, and that the testator was mentally incompetent to make a will.

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Step 1

Ascertain whether the minor has standing to contest a will in your state. If he is the child of the deceased or named as an heir in the will, standing is clear. If not, research your state's standing requirements (see Resources).

Step 2

Review the evidence and research your state's probate laws to determine whether the child has valid grounds to challenge the will. Undue influence, fraud, testator incompetence, improper execution and the existence of a superseding will are valid grounds in all states. If the minor is a child of the deceased born after the will was made, many jurisdictions invalidate the will or award him his intestate share. Claims of general unfairness or injustice do not constitute legal grounds.

Step 3

Consider your relationship to the child. The law does not consider minors competent to bring legal actions on their own account. Most states require that a legal guardian -- generally a parent or legal guardian -- termed "guardian ad litem" manage their litigation. Prepare and file an application to be appointed the minor's guardian ad litem, explaining to the court's satisfaction why your appointment is in the child's best interests.

Step 4

Hire a probate attorney to prepare an objection to the will on the minor's behalf. Alternatively, research probate law and procedure and prepare the objection yourself. Set out the grounds for the challenge and the minor's standing in your papers. File the objection within the statutory period with the probate court. The court will set a date for a court trial on the issues raised in your objection.

Step 5

Appear at the court trial. Present all evidence and arguments. Convince the court that the grounds you raise are valid, and describe the relief you seek, whether invalidation of a provision of the will or the entire document. The court will consider the matter after each sides presents evidence. The judge will then either tell you the ruling immediately after trial or else issue a written decision at a later time.