The Time Limit for Contesting a Will

By April Kohl

Wills are powerful legal documents in which the estate of a deceased person is divided between his beneficiaries. Because the deceased is no longer around to distribute the assets himself, his wishes are carried out by an executor. In order to ensure as smooth a process as possible, the states provide a time limit for contesting the will, and generally does not consider challenges outside of this period.

State Decision

The exact amount of time allowed to contest a will varies from state to state, so consulting an attorney for your state is a good idea. In Texas, an interested party has four years in which to contest a will, while in Georgia the time ranges from zero to two years depending on the form of probate applied for by the executor of the will.

Exceptions

In addition to a time limit for contesting a will, the states recognize exceptions to the standard rules. Where a person can provide evidence that a will has been forged or produced due to fraud, it may be possible to submit a petition to contest the will even if the statute of limitations would usually prevent the contest. An attorney will be able to advise on whether such a contest is possible.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan

Starting Time

Wills do not come into effect until a petition to enter probate has been submitted to the probate court responsible for the area in which the deceased lived. As a result, the time limit begins to count down from the day probate begins, rather than the date the will was written or the date on which the testator died.

Considerations

Contesting a will can be a daunting process requiring court appearances and the examination of evidence to determine the validity of the contest, so it's best to consult an attorney specializing in wills and probate before contesting a will. The lawyer will be able to determine whether the contest is within time or whether it fits one of the state's exceptions to the statute of limitations, as well as the likelihood of success if a contest is made.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan
How Long Does a Person Have to Contest a Will?
 

References

Related articles

Can You Contest a Will After Probate?

The probate process officially recognizes the will as valid. It also allows the executor to follow the will's instructions under the supervision of the probate court. When probate begins, so does the window of time in which beneficiaries can contest a will. Once probate is over, the estate no longer exists and the will cannot be challenged.

Wisconsin Probate Procedures to Challenge a Will

Probate is the process in which the court oversees the distribution of one’s property after death. State laws govern probate. Wisconsin has two types of probate processes: informal and formal. Informal probate can happen when no interested parties dispute the distribution of the estate, and the county register supervises the relatively simple process. When a dispute arises, however, then the matter must go before probate court for formal probate. Wisconsin probate law sets forth the procedures for challenging a will.

How Long Do You Have to Contest a Will?

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.

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

Related articles

Procedure for Contesting a Will

When a person dies, his will goes through a court-supervised process known as probate. This process provides a reliable ...

How to Contest a Will in British Columbia

If you wish to contest a will in British Columbia, you must follow the law of the province concerning wills and ...

How to Challenge an Executor of a Will

If the estate is the boat, the executor is the captain. An executor -- termed personal representative in some states -- ...

How to Contest a Will in Probate

While TV sitcoms portray feuding children of dead millionaires duking it out in probate court, reality is often more ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED