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
Advice on Contesting Wills


Related articles

Beneficiary Dying During the Probate of the Will in Pennsylvania

The death of a beneficiary during the probate process can alter the distribution of the estate. Some wills include a provision stating that a beneficiary must survive the testator by a certain amount of time -- 30 days, for example -- but this type of contingency is not usually planned for. Whether such a provision is included in a will can make all the difference in how the assets of the estate are distributed.

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 according to the decedent's wishes. As a result, Florida law allows people to challenge wills in cases of undue influence, fraud or mental incapacity. Knowing how a will may be challenged may help you understand the importance of following the state's laws when drafting your own will.

Alabama's Statute of Limitations for Contesting a Will

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.

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

Related articles

Ways to Contest a Will in Alabama

Alabama courts seek to ensure that a person's estate is distributed according to his wishes. If the will does not ...

Letters Testamentary Without a Will

Whether a person creates a will or not, her estate must be administered after her death. In either case, the court ...

How to Contest a Fraudulent Last Will

The probate process is designed to ensure that only valid, accurate wills are enforced by court orders and as such, ...

How to Contest a Will in Missouri

Your will leaves instructions for your loved ones regarding how you want your property distributed, and your loved ones ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED