What Is the Statute of Limitations for Contesting a Will in North Carolina?

By Lynnette Holt

When a will is filed with the appropriate court, family members or other interested parties can contest the will and argue against its validity. In North Carolina, a will contest is called a caveat to the will. North Carolina General Statutes Section 31-32 imposes strict guidelines on the timing and subject matter of caveats to wills.

When a will is filed with the appropriate court, family members or other interested parties can contest the will and argue against its validity. In North Carolina, a will contest is called a caveat to the will. North Carolina General Statutes Section 31-32 imposes strict guidelines on the timing and subject matter of caveats to wills.

General Time Limitations

Section 31-32 states that a will caveat can be entered at the time of application to probate, or at any time within the next three years. But there are statutory exceptions to the time limitation. If a person who is entitled to file a caveat is unable to do so during the three years, his three-year limitation period begins when he gains the ability to file. People who are minors, insane or in prison, for example, are unable to file will caveats until they come of age, are no longer legally insane or are no longer imprisoned.

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Wills before 1951

The North Carolina statute contains special rules for wills filed before May 1, 1951. Caveats to those wills had to be filed within seven years of the date of probate, or within three years of May 1, 1951. This oddity in the law occurred because the legislature changed the limitations period effective May 1, 1951 and provided for actions which could have been brought under the old law.

Testamentary Capacity

In a will caveat, the court assumes that the will is valid. The will's challenger has the burden to prove that the testator lacked testamentary capacity or was under undue influence of another person. To have testamentary capacity, the testator must understand generally what property she owns, who would naturally receive her property after her death, that she was making a will and the effect a will has on her estate. For example, if the testator leaves her property to an unrelated person and doesn’t acknowledge in the will that her children would normally inherit, the will may be open to a challenge for testamentary capacity.

Undue Influence

A court can consider several factors when determining an undue influence claim. The court may consider whether the will disinherits family and whether the testator was in the constant care and supervision of the beneficiary. The court can also consider the age and health of the testator.

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Time Limits When Contesting a Will

References

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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 inheritance if a will does not exist or is rendered invalid, such as a surviving spouse or children of the deceased. A beneficiary is someone designated in a will to receive property or funds. The probate court will allow a hearing challenging a will and evaluate testimony from at least two witnesses, either in person, by affidavit or by deposition.

Contesting a Will as a Beneficiary

Will contests take place in probate court: One of the functions of probate court is to hear any disputes pertaining to the execution of a will. A beneficiary who seeks to contest a will must have verifiable grounds upon which to do so. If a probate court deems the evidence sufficient, it may declare the entire will invalid or merely strike certain provisions.

Undue Influence on Wills in Nevada

Wills are designed to reflect the wishes of the deceased and when undue influence occurred in drafting the will, you might have the right to challenge the validity of the document. Nevada law provides that only interested persons may challenge a will and only within a certain time frame. Although undue influence is a common claim, it is somewhat difficult to prove because it is often based on circumstantial evidence.

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