The Time Limit for Contesting a Will

by April Kohl

    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.

    State Decision

    The exact amount of time allowed to contest a will varies from state to state, so consulting an attorney for your state is a good idea. In Texas, an interested party has four years in which to contest a will, while in Georgia the time ranges from zero to two years depending on the form of probate applied for by the executor of the will.

    Exceptions

    In addition to a time limit for contesting a will, the states recognize exceptions to the standard rules. Where a person can provide evidence that a will has been forged or produced due to fraud, it may be possible to submit a petition to contest the will even if the statute of limitations would usually prevent the contest. An attorney will be able to advise on whether such a contest is possible.

    Starting Time

    Wills do not come into effect until a petition to enter probate has been submitted to the probate court responsible for the area in which the deceased lived. As a result, the time limit begins to count down from the day probate begins, rather than the date the will was written or the date on which the testator died.

    Considerations

    Contesting a will can be a daunting process requiring court appearances and the examination of evidence to determine the validity of the contest, so it's best to consult an attorney specializing in wills and probate before contesting a will. The lawyer will be able to determine whether the contest is within time or whether it fits one of the state's exceptions to the statute of limitations, as well as the likelihood of success if a contest is made.

    About the Author

    Based in the United Kingdom, April Kohl has been writing since 1992, specializing in science and legal topics. Her work has appeared on the Second Life News Network website and in British Mensa's "LSQ" magazine. Kohl holds a Bachelor of Science in physics from Durham University and a diploma in English law from the Open University.

    Photo Credits

    • Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images