Procedure for Contesting a Will

By Laura Wallace Henderson

When a person dies, his will goes through a court-supervised process known as probate. This process provides a reliable and legal method of managing the deceased’s estate. Individual states regulate the probate proceedings, and may set limitations on anyone's ability to contest the validity of a will in probate.

When a person dies, his will goes through a court-supervised process known as probate. This process provides a reliable and legal method of managing the deceased’s estate. Individual states regulate the probate proceedings, and may set limitations on anyone's ability to contest the validity of a will in probate.

Probate

Once an individual dies, the executor named in the will files the deceased's will with the court, along with a copy of the death certificate. During probate, the court and executor may perform a number of activities, depending on the directives in the will and the complexity of the estate.

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

Will Contests

State statutes provide specific instructions regarding when and how to contest a will. A person with standing, meaning an individual who has a personal financial stake involved, may challenge the will for a number of reasons. Common circumstances for contesting include wills that do not contain provisions for spouses or children, unequal division of assets between beneficiaries and the presence of earlier wills that contained different disbursements. The probate judge may restrict contest actions by individuals who can’t prove a legitimate interest in the estate.

Restrictions

If a testator adds a no-contest clause to his will, beneficiaries that contest the will after the testator's death and lose the case are not entitled to receive any assets at all. However, not all states honor no-contest clauses. Probate judges also seldom consider addressing claims by individuals who have no legitimate interest in the outcome of the probate proceedings.

Methods

While state regulations vary, time limitations to contest a will often range between two and six months from the time probate begins. Contact the probate court to obtain explicit requirements for contesting a will. The court clerk may provide you with the necessary forms to file when contesting a will. Include, or reference, any paperwork and evidence that supports your claim, such as copies of earlier or later wills, information regarding the testator’s mental competency when executing the will or reasons to believe the will is forged. The probate court may require you to present copies of your claims to the estate executor and interested parties. During a will challenge or contest, the probate judge will address your claims and rule on the validity of the will.

Protect your loved ones by a legally binding will. Make a Will Online Now
How to Contest a Will in British Columbia

References

Related articles

The Right to Contest a Will

When a will has been introduced into probate, the court proceeding that oversees the distribution of assets to beneficiaries, individuals have the ability to challenge the contents of the will or the entire will itself. These challenges may be raised with or without an attorney. Not all will contests will be entertained, however; both you and your claim must meet specific requirements before the court will hear your arguments.

The Time Limit for Contesting a Will

Wills are powerful legal documents in which the estate of a deceased person is divided between his beneficiaries. Because the deceased is no longer around to distribute the assets himself, his wishes are carried out by an executor. In order to ensure as smooth a process as possible, the states provide a time limit for contesting the will, and generally does not consider challenges outside of this period.

How to Dispute Estates and Wills

When a person dies, the majority of her property is processed through a judicial proceeding known as probate. During this process, the court will determine which will should be used to distribute the property contained in the estate, what property should be included in the estate, and who should serve as executor. The probate court will also settle all disputes related to the estate. The details of probate law vary by state, so you will need to check state law for specific procedures.

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

Related articles

How to Force an Executor to Settle an Estate in Maryland

It may be necessary to force an executor to settle an estate if he fails to perform any portion of the probate process. ...

Advice on Contesting Wills

A will contest or a will challenge is a court case brought to dispute the validity of a will, according to FindLaw. In ...

Information on Contesting a Will

When a person dies leaving a will, someone may be dissatisfied with his share of the estate or be upset that he was not ...

How to Contest a Will in Probate

While TV sitcoms portray feuding children of dead millionaires duking it out in probate court, reality is often more ...

Browse by category