How to Dispute Estates and Wills

By John Cromwell

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.

Step 1

Establish that you have standing. Only interested parties in the estate can dispute the will and estate. For example, if you are a beneficiary of one of the decedent’s wills or one of the decedent’s relatives, you can contest the will.

Step 2

Determine if you have appropriate grounds to dispute the will. You may contest a will if it was not drafted according to the state’s standards. You can also contest the will if you believe the decedent was not of sound mind when she drafted the document. If you believe the decedent was tricked or coerced into signing the will, you may also contest the will. Finally, if you can demonstrate the decedent did not intend to include certain provisions in the will but did so by accident, you may contest the will.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan

Step 3

Check your state’s statute of limitations for challenging the will. Some states will limit when a challenge to the estate may be brought. For example, in Illinois, you must bring a suit to contest any part of the estate within six months of being notified the estate is in probate.

Step 4

Review the will for a “no-contest clause.” A no-contest clause is a deterrent to contesting wills. If a beneficiary contests a will with such a clause, he loses all property he would have gained under the will. This does not deter others who have standing but are not beneficiaries under a will from contesting. Consider if you would like to contest the will based on what you risk losing if you do challenge a will with a no-contest provision.

Step 5

File a petition with the probate court. The petition should state what estate you are contesting, why you can contest the will, on what grounds you are contesting the estate, and what action you want the court to take to fix the problem. File the completed petition with the clerk of court where the estate is being probated. Consider using an online document provider to help you draft the petition.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan
Ways to Contest a Will in Alabama

References

Related articles

Death Without a Will in Michigan

Under Michigan law, when a person dies without a will, it is said the person died intestate. The law has rules for what happens to a person's property when a person dies without a will. These rules are necessary because there is no will to provide direction as to how the deceased wished to distribute his property. The probate court will distribute property that was not owned jointly, as well as property that did not have a named beneficiary, according to Michigan law.

Does the Executor of a Will Have to Use an Attorney to Execute the Will?

When you create a will, you not only leave instructions for how your property should be distributed upon death, you also nominate someone to administer your estate. This person is known as the executor. The executor is charged with gathering estate property, paying estate debts and making distributions to beneficiaries of the will.

What Happens When You Inherit Money?

If someone dies after having established a living trust, the trust assets won't go through probate. Assets, including any money that you've inherited, can be immediately distributed by the trustee under the terms of the trust deed. On the other hand, when someone dies and you inherit money under a will, you probably won't get the money immediately. The will must first go through probate, a process that determines whether the will is valid and allows interested parties to contest it.

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

Related articles

How to Contest a Will in Florida

After the death of a loved one, both family members and Florida courts want to ensure that the estate is distributed ...

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 ...

How to Contest a Will in Louisiana

A person who creates a will is known as the testator. The process of administering the testator’s wishes in Louisiana ...

Estate Settlement & Division of Property From a Will

Estates are settled through probate, which is a process overseen by a local court to ensure that the decedent’s debts ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED