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 Will in Missouri


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Law on Contesting Will Time Limit in California

You can contest a will in California, but you must petition the probate court as soon as possible. California permits will contests to be filed on various grounds by interested parties. Interested parties are the deceased person's heirs, creditors and specific beneficiaries named in the will. A successful will contest can void a will entirely or eliminate some of its provisions.

Contesting a Will as a Beneficiary

Will contests take place in probate court: One of the functions of probate court is to hear any disputes pertaining to the execution of a will. A beneficiary who seeks to contest a will must have verifiable grounds upon which to do so. If a probate court deems the evidence sufficient, it may declare the entire will invalid or merely strike certain provisions.

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An executor in California is a person who is nominated in a will to represent the deceased person’s estate and to carry out the instructions found in the will. A court must approve of the nomination before the nominee can serve as the executor. For most nominees, the court appointment is simply a matter of procedure, but problems can arise if the nominee elects not to serve or if someone contests the nomination.

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