How to Contest a Fraudulent Last Will

By Heather Frances J.D.

The probate process is designed to ensure that only valid, accurate wills are enforced by court orders and as such, probate courts allow challenges to a will’s validity. State laws vary when it comes to the actual process for contesting a will -- as well as what constitutes fraud concerning a will.

The probate process is designed to ensure that only valid, accurate wills are enforced by court orders and as such, probate courts allow challenges to a will’s validity. State laws vary when it comes to the actual process for contesting a will -- as well as what constitutes fraud concerning a will.

Statutes of Limitations and Standing

Will contests generally take place in the probate court where the will was admitted, typically in the county where the deceased, known as the decedent, lived at the time of his death, or where he owned most of his property. Your state might have a statute of limitations that limits the time period for will contests. For example, will contestants in Alabama must file their contests within six months from the date on which the will was admitted to the court. In all states, the person filing the petition to set aside the will must have standing to contest it. In other words, the contestant must have some interest in the outcome of the contest. For example, an interested person is typically an heir of the decedent, standing to inherit under the state’s intestate statutes if the decedent had died without a will, or a person whose inheritance was greater in a prior will than in the one admitted to the court.

Protect your loved ones by a legally binding will. Make a Will Online Now

Fraud

Though the exact definition of fraud varies among states, it generally involves intentional false statements made by a party with the intent to deceive the decedent -- and that actually induced the decedent to make a will or add a specific provision to his will that he otherwise would not have had he not received fraudulent information. The contestant has the burden of proving to the court that fraud occurred -- and witness testimony or other evidence is generally necessary as proof. A proponent of the will might have the opportunity to refute the contestant's evidence with other evidence that shows the will was not fraudulent.

Invalidating the Will

If the probate court concludes, based on the contestant’s evidence, that the will was fraudulently induced, it might invalidate any provisions induced by the fraud, or it may invalidate the entire will. If the fraud related to only one provision of the will, the court might decline to invalidate an otherwise valid will. If the entire will is declared invalid, the court could order the decedent’s estate divided among the decedent’s heirs according to the state’s intestacy laws. If there is a prior valid will available, the court could accept that will as the controlling will -- ordering the distribution of the decedent’s estate according to its terms.

No Contest Clauses

Some wills contain “no contest” clauses intended to deter will contests by punishing unsuccessful contestants. If a decedent’s will has such a clause but the challenger is successful in getting the will, or portions of it, declared invalid, the contestant might gain a larger inheritance than provided by the contested will. However, if the challenger loses the contest, he might lose his entire inheritance under the terms of the no contest clause.

Protect your loved ones by a legally binding will. Make a Will Online Now
Protesting a Will in Illinois

References

Related articles

Wills With No-Contest Clauses in Massachusetts

A will details the way the deceased person’s assets are to be distributed, but sometimes someone will try to contest, or challenge, the will if he does not receive the inheritance to which he believes himself entitled. Consequently, you can insert a clause in your will to discourage challenges to the will’s validity, perhaps making a challenger think twice before acting.

Ways to Contest a Will in Alabama

Alabama courts seek to ensure that a person's estate is distributed according to his wishes. If the will does not reflect the decedent's wishes for any reason, such as cases where the decedent did not have the mental capacity to write his will, an interested person may challenge the will in either probate court or circuit court.

How to Contest a Will in Missouri

Your will leaves instructions for your loved ones regarding how you want your property distributed, and your loved ones might willingly follow your instructions to the letter. Sometimes, however, family and friends may dispute, or contest, terms of your will. Missouri allows certain persons to contest a will even if it appears valid, but you can take steps to discourage will contests.

LegalZoom. Legal help is here. Start Here. Wills. Trusts. Attorney help.

Related articles

How to Contest a Will in Florida

After the death of a loved one, both family members and Florida courts want to ensure that the estate is distributed ...

Laws Regarding Renouncing Inheritance in Louisiana

Louisiana law permits you to fully renounce any inheritance you are entitled to receive. You also have the option of ...

How to Invalidate a Last Will & Testament

A will contains an individual's final wishes. As a result, any attempt to invalidate it must meet a high standard of ...

Contesting a Will in Kansas

In Kansas, only an heir or beneficiary may contest a will. An heir is a relative who would be entitled to an ...

Browse by category