Contesting or challenging a will is possible. This holds even after a court has accepted (or “admitted”) a will in a process known as probate. It is the legal process of the legal validation of a will, payment of the deceased’s debts and taxes and distribution of remaining assets to beneficiaries.
In this process, you can ask the court to reconsider the will’s validity if you believe there are legitimate grounds to do so. However, some considerations are crucial to successfully challenging a will in probate.
Grounds to challenge a will
Before contesting a will, you will need a valid reason. These reasons are often called “grounds” for contesting one. Here are some common grounds:
- The testator (the person who wrote the will) was mentally incompetent when signing the will.
- Someone coerced the testator into writing the will a certain way.
- Someone else, not the decedent, signed the will or deceived the testator into signing it.
- The testator didn’t follow the legal rules in executing the will.
- The will contains errors or wasn’t properly completed.
- The will wasn’t signed or notarized as required by state law.
- There weren’t enough witnesses present during the will’s signing.
- It’s unclear which version of the will is the correct one.
In these instances, it’s not enough to simply believe these events occurred—you need concrete evidence to support your claims and convince the court.
Preparing for the next steps
After determining the grounds to contest a will, you start by filing a petition with the court. The court then notifies the executor, the person responsible for carrying out the will’s terms, and the individuals named in the will, allowing them to respond to the contest. A court hearing follows where you present your evidence against the will’s validity.
What happens now
After the hearing, you have to wait for the judge’s decision. The judge will review all the evidence you presented. If the judge agrees with your contest, they can cancel the will. This step completes the process of contesting a will. However, if another interested party disagrees with the court’s decision, they can appeal. Evidently, contesting a will undergoing probate can be challenging. So, you should seek the help of a legal professional to assist you during the process.