Estate Planning | Challenging a Will

by Flanders Law Firm LLC on August 31, 2011

The goal of estate planning is that there won’t be any room for a Will contest.  However, even the most effective estate planning and drafting of a Will or Trust instrument cannot guarantee that a disgruntled heir may challenge the validity of a Will.

In most states, Will contests can only be brought by parties who have an interest in the estate, for example:  creditors or beneficiaries.  These interested parties must generally challenge a Will within a certain period of time from when the Will or Trust document is first submitted to a court for probate.  A typical time period to bring a Will contest is three months, although this can vary from state to state.

The typical grounds for challenging a Will are allegations by the challenging party that:

  • The deceased was of an “unsound mind” when the Will or Trust document was made
  • The deceased was “unduly influenced” by a beneficiary in the execution of the Will or Trust document when he or she made it.
  • The deceased was “under duress” or the Will was obtained by “fraud”
  • Any other valid objection that the deceased did not make the Will or Trust document

It should also be pointed out that courts generally disfavor Will contests.  Courts are more likely to want the Will to stand on its own. Fighting over the contents of a Will or other estate planning document is disfavored because it creates extra cost, time, and bad feelings for all involved.  Many courts are very busy.  Clogging up a court docket with siblings or other heirs who are fighting over mom or dad’s money is not something the courts are inclined to do.  This is for good reason:  can you imagine the time and money wasted by such a contest – especially when there is only money involved?

Despite the court’s reluctance to hear Will contests, they can be brought and won by an interested party.  Unfortunately, fighting over an estate is a common problem.  Some states even allow a clause to be inserted into the Will which states that a heir who challenges the Will is automatically disqualified from receiving any inheritance.

Furthermore, some states require heirs to notify their own parents of their disagreement with the Will document prior to the parent’s death.  Just imagine how much the son or daughter will want to do this.

As many Apple Valley MN estate planning lawyers recommend, proper estate planning is a must.  Without it, the chance for Will contests and/or estate fighting goes up tremendously.

Please visit flanderslawfirm.com for more information on estate planning and Contests.

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