Alabama's Statute of Limitations for Contesting a Will

By Nichole Hoskins

Most states, including Alabama, have rules about who may contest a will and for how long after death someone is permitted to do so. The length of time you have to challenge a will after someone has died is sometimes referred to as the statute of limitations for contesting a will. Depending on the circumstances, you may have as few as six months or as many as 20 years after the death before the statute of limitations runs out.

Probating the Will

In Alabama, wills are considered ineffective if they are not submitted for probate within five years from the death of the person who wrote the will. This means that at the time of death, the named executor or any person named as a beneficiary in the will is authorized to present that will to the probate court of the appropriate county and open a probate proceeding to distribute the deceased's property.

Challenging the Will

Any interested party may challenge the validity of a will, or contest it, by filing a petition in the court where the will has been presented for probate handling. An interested party is any person who is named in the will to receive property or who, if the deceased had died without a will, has the right to inherit property under the laws of intestacy. In the petition, contesting parties must explain in writing the legal grounds under which they are challenging the credibility of the will. Common grounds for challenging a will include allegations that the will was not properly created or executed; the deceased was not of sound mind; or the deceased was under undue influence or fraud.

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Time to File Petition

Once a will has been presented to the probate court, any interested person has six months from the date of submission to bring a challenge. Once that initial six-month period has expired, a will in Alabama can only be contested in specific situations. More than six months after a will has been probated, it may be contested by children and others who are considered incapacitated if they were without a legal guardian at the time the will was initially submitted to the court.

Exceptions

Minors and those who have been judged mentally incompetent who are entitled to inherit property under a will have 12 months from the appointment of a guardian to file a petition contesting the will. If no guardian is appointed, they are allowed 12 months starting from the date their disability is no longer an issue. Under no circumstances, however, may a challenge be brought more than 20 years after the will was presented to the probate court.

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The Statue of Limitations on Contesting a Will in Kentucky

References

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New York Estate Law When the Executor Dies

New York, like all other states, recognizes a written will as the proper method for making your wishes known as to the distribution of your assets when you die. The executor is the person named in the will to see that the terms of the will are carried out. If an executor dies before she has completed her duties, the court must appoint a new executor.

When Do the Assets Get Distributed After the Probate of a Will?

Probate is a legal process used to settle an estate. It includes determining whether the will is valid, notifying potential beneficiaries and creditors, making an inventory of the estate, paying any debts from the estate, and distributing the assets. The assets are distributed from an estate only after the bills have been paid and an inventory made. Some states require that the surviving family have a year stipend provided before creditors or beneficiaries are given a disposition of assets.

Who Can Contest a Will?

Although estate laws vary somewhat from state to state, they all have some criteria in their legislation that must be met before anyone can contest a will. Generally, these statutes include a provision that you must “have standing” or be an “interested person” in order to challenge a will. The will must have financially harmed you in some way, or you must have some financial interest in the deceased’s estate.

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