How Long Do You Have to Contest a Will?

By Beverly Bird

Contesting a will is one of the most complicated aspects of estate law. Deadlines and provisions vary from state to state. If you think you have reason to challenge a will, contact an attorney immediately to find out what the exact time frames are in your area. Generally, your options depend on whether or not the will has been probated.

Before Death

You cannot legally challenge a will before the testator, or the person who made it, dies. But in some states you can file a lawsuit in civil court while the testator is still alive if you believe another beneficiary has unduly influenced the will. The charge is “torturous interference with an inheritance.” Your time limit to file runs until the testator dies.

Before Probate

Your next option is to get to the probate court before the will does. This window of time can be anywhere from days to years, depending on when the will is found and how quickly the executor attempts to file it for probate. A "caveat" or written objection placed with the probate court prevents the will from entering probate until your challenge can be heard by a judge.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan

After Probate

The statute of limitations for contesting a will begins running once it has been legally filed with the probate court. In most states, this is two years. This period generally begins with the date the will is accepted into probate, not the date of death.

Exceptions

A minor cannot file a lawsuit, including a will challenge. Most states extend the time frame for contesting a will in such cases, giving the minor two years after he has reached the age of majority to file a challenge. In 2010, the Texas Supreme Court decided that under some circumstances, the statute of limitations for contesting a will can be extended to four years from the date probate closed. This new law applies if you were unaware that you were an heir at the time the will was probated, such as if you did not know the deceased was your parent. Most states will also make exceptions when a new, more recent will is found after the first one has entered probate. If the new will is declared valid, it takes precedence over the older one. Any statute of limitations to contest it begins when the new will is filed.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan
Statute of Limitations on Contesting a Will in New Jersey
 

References

Related articles

What's the Statute of Limitations for Contesting a Will in Georgia?

Georgia does not limit will challenges to beneficiaries and heirs. Those who are financially harmed by the will or who might potentially benefit from it can contest it as long as they have legal grounds, such as proof that the testator was not mentally competent, that some procedural deficiency occurred in the making of it, or it is a forgery or fraud. Two statutes of limitation exist.

Can More Than Two Wills Be Probated?

Very few people intentionally leave two wills. If two separate wills are offered for probate, the court generally tries to recreate through proof the circumstances that led to two wills existing; then it decides which will to accept as valid. Several factors can impact this decision.

Contesting a Will in Kansas

In Kansas, only an heir or beneficiary may contest a will. An heir is a relative who would be entitled to an inheritance if a will does not exist or is rendered invalid, such as a surviving spouse or children of the deceased. A beneficiary is someone designated in a will to receive property or funds. The probate court will allow a hearing challenging a will and evaluate testimony from at least two witnesses, either in person, by affidavit or by deposition.

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

Related articles

How Long Do I Have to Contest a Will in Texas?

Texas has six deadlines for contesting a will depending on the circumstances of the case, but things can be complicated ...

Time Limits When Contesting a Will

Estate law is not an area that lends itself well to black-and-white answers. Statutes vary from state to state. ...

What Is the Statute of Limitations for Contesting a Will in North Carolina?

When a will is filed with the appropriate court, family members or other interested parties can contest the will and ...

Can Wills Be Contested?

Wills can be contested, but the process is subject to complex laws that vary from state to state. If you believe you ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED