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How Does Contesting a Will Work?

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When someone dies, their estate may have to go through the probate process. If they left a will, it can be legally contested in probate court.

Understanding how this works is important, if you’ve been named as a beneficiary of an estate or you’re concerned that your own will may one day be contested.

KTVA’s recent article, “How to Contest a Will in Probate Court,” explains that any interested party can contest a will, and what qualifies as an interested party is pretty broad. It typically means any person or business that may stand to gain (or lose) an asset, if the will is successfully proven to be invalid. This will include people who may not be named in the will and people who can inherit from it according to the inheritance laws in your state.

There are several reasons why a will may be legally contested during the probate process. Some of the most common grounds are questions about the mental state of the testator, claims of undue influence, suspected fraud or forgery and the possible improper preparation or execution of the will.

Let’s look at the steps in contesting a will:

Step 1: Research. Be certain that you have grounds to make a challenge. It’s best to work with an experienced probate attorney who knows the laws for contesting a will in your state and whether your reason for wanting to challenge the will is covered by state probate law. He or she will also know how long after a person’s death you have to raise an objection to a will.

Step 2: Filing Your Petition. To contest a will during probate, you’d need to file a petition to challenge the will in court. An estate planning attorney can again do this for you, if there is a substantial amount of assets at stake or other people are also challenging the will.

Step 3: Collect Evidence. The court will then set a date to hear your case. Before that occurs, work on gathering evidence to support your claim that the will isn’t valid. The more valid evidence you can gather, the stronger your case may be.

Challenging a will can drag on for months or years. Before contesting a will, decide whether it’s worth your time and money.

Minimize the risks of your own will being challenged after you die, by working with an estate planning attorney. Your attorney can help make sure your will is legal and properly structured, so it is protected from challenges.

Reference: KTVA (August 16, 2019) “How to Contest a Will in Probate Court”

Suggested Key Terms: Estate Planning Lawyer, Will Contest, Probate Court, Inheritance, Probate Attorney