How Do You Contest a Will?

by April Kohl
An attorney may be able to help you establish whether you have a valid claim.

An attorney may be able to help you establish whether you have a valid claim.

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A person's last will and testament should be a clear expression of his wishes regarding the distribution of his property upon his death, and should be made with a clear mind and no outside influences. However, when this is not the case, knowing how to contest a will can ensure that property is distributed according to the law.

Establish Credentials

A person may only contest a will if she is of proper standing and has valid reason for contesting. A person has proper standing if she is harmed in some way by the will, such as a child or other close relative being left out of the will. Valid reasons to contest include undue influence, fraud, a mistake in drafting or the testator not being of sound mind when he wrote the will.

Consult an Attorney

Discussing your concerns with an attorney may enable you to establish whether you have a valid claim against the will. The attorney may be able to review the will, examine any evidence you have to support your claim and then prepare the necessary documentation for you. An attorney will also be able to advise on the likelihood of your claim's success, and explain the appeals process if you should fail.

File a Claim

Claims contesting a will are filed with the probate court regardless of what the grounds of the case are. Your attorney will be able to file your claim for you and also present your supporting evidence and documentation to the court. You will receive notice from the court that your claim has been lodged, and the court will hear your case in a similar manner to other court cases.

Warning

States which subscribe to the Uniform Probate Code -- a law which harmonizes probate laws across states that subscribe to it -- allow wills to contain a “no contest clause.” This clause generally prevents anyone from inheriting anything from a will if they contest its contents without a valid reason. It may be a good idea to hire an attorney if the state in which you contest a will has this clause.