How Long After a Will Is Settled Do You Have to Contest?

By Teo Spengler

If a loved one dies and the will provisions shock you, a will contest is one option of challenging the document. But the fact that the will seems inequitable to you is not enough. To successfully contest, you need to establish appropriate grounds and act within the limitations period in your jurisdiction.

Grounds to Contest

In the United States, a person is generally free to name anyone as beneficiary under her will. No laws require that a spouse or children inherit. On the other hand, you can contest the will, if it was not signed before the required number of witnesses, if the testator was incompetent when she made it, or if it was made as a result of undue influence or fraud.

Time to Contest

States set up time limits for bringing actions in court, termed statutes of limitations. The statute of limitations for bringing a will contest varies among the states. In Pennsylvania, for example, you have at most one year from the date the probate court officially appoints an executor, but the court also has discretion to set a shorter period. In Texas, you have two years to bring the contest and the time begins to run when the will is admitted to probate. In some cases, the limitations period may be waived in case of fraud or improper notice.

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How to Contest a Last Will & Testament in Arizona

References

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Probate Laws in Missouri

When someone dies in Missouri or dies owning property in Missouri, Missouri’s probate laws outline the procedures for processing the decedent’s estate, including determining whether the decedent’s will is valid, how to prove its validity in court, and who receives a decedent's property if he died without a valid will. These probate laws are located in Missouri Revised Statues, Chapter 474, formally known as the Missouri Probate Code.

Who Needs to Probate a Will?

It is a common misconception that carefully drafted wills avoid probate. All wills in the United States must pass though probate -- a period of court-supervised administration -- to be effective. A will's executor begins the probate process by filing a petition with the probate court, and probate terminates with the distribution of estate assets to heirs.

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 might willingly follow your instructions to the letter. Sometimes, however, family and friends may dispute, or contest, terms of your will. Missouri allows certain persons to contest a will even if it appears valid, but you can take steps to discourage will contests.

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