Statute of Limitations on Contesting a Will in Massachusetts

By Beverly Bird

Massachusetts has a very short statute of limitations for contesting a will. If you do not act immediately after the will is filed for probate -- or if you do not act correctly and make procedural errors -- you may lose your opportunity to object. The will’s proponents, or the executor and beneficiaries who want the will to stand, can file a motion to “strike” your objection and have it thrown out of court if it is deficient in any way.

Massachusetts has a very short statute of limitations for contesting a will. If you do not act immediately after the will is filed for probate -- or if you do not act correctly and make procedural errors -- you may lose your opportunity to object. The will’s proponents, or the executor and beneficiaries who want the will to stand, can file a motion to “strike” your objection and have it thrown out of court if it is deficient in any way.

Notice of Appearance

When a probate court in Massachusetts receives a will for filing, the court sends a “citation,” or notice, to all the deceased’s heirs. Heirs are people closely related to the deceased who would have inherited by the laws of the state if he had died without a will. The court also publishes a newspaper notice advising that it has received the will for probate. Both the citation and the newspaper notice contain something called a “return date,” or a date for a court hearing where a judge will decide if the will is valid. If you object to the will, you must file a notice of appearance before the return date. A notice of appearance tells the court that you have an interest in the will.

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Affidavit of Objections

After the return date, you have 30 days to file an affidavit of objection, a detailed, formal pleading that tells the court why you believe the will is invalid. You must list provable reasons, such as that the testator, or the person who wrote the will, was not of sound mind at the time she did it, or that another beneficiary influenced her to write her will the way she did. If your affidavit of objection is procedurally incorrect in any way or fails to give a legitimate reason why you are contesting the will, the court will dismiss it, so seek the assistance of an attorney to make sure you get it right.

Pretrial Conference

If the court determines that your affidavit of objection has merit, the judge will probably schedule a pretrial conference within the next 30 days at which pretrial issues will be discussed and the judge will set a trial date. Having that date postponed or “continued” requires a formal motion, or written request, to the court that won’t be granted without a very good reason.

Litigation

Once a trial date is set, you will either reach a settlement with the will’s proponents or proceed to trial. According to the Massachusetts Trusts, Estates & Probate Blog, many cases settle at this point because the court has in effect agreed that you have a good and provable reason to object to the will.

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How to File a Will Contest in Oklahoma

References

Related articles

Timeframe for Contesting a Will in Virginia

If you would like to contest a Virginia will, you must file your objections with the clerk of court where the will has been admitted to probate. State law sets out a statute of limitations for this procedure, which in some cases can be waived or extended. To comply with the law and carry out the process according to the rules of the court, it is in your best interest to hire an experienced estate or probate attorney.

AZ Statute of Limitations for Contesting a Will

Arizona offers three types of probate proceedings: informal, formal and supervised. Supervised probate is rare and involves continuous court intervention under special circumstances. Most wills are submitted for informal probate, a shorter and usually less expensive process. Probate should be opened within two years of the testator’s death, and objections to the will should also be filed within two years, though there are numerous exceptions.

Can Wills Be Contested?

Wills can be contested, but the process is subject to complex laws that vary from state to state. If you believe you have cause to contest a will, immediately contact an attorney to learn the rules for doing so where you live. The burden is on the person contesting the will to prove that it should be set aside, so will contests are not typically easy to win.

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