Contested Probate and How It May Affect You

naperville will lawyerContested probate refers to a legal dispute involving a deceased person’s will. When someone passes away, their surviving family members or other heirs may challenge the validity of their will in court. The dispute may involve allegations of forgery, lack of testamentary capacity, fraud, undue influence, or other issues. Individuals may also contest the will because they disagree about who should benefit from the deceased person’s estate and how assets should be divided.

Common Reasons that Surviving Loved Ones Contest a Will

Wills are used to describe how assets should be distributed to heirs. A will contest is a formal challenge of the will’s legitimacy. For example, a family member may claim that a deceased relative did not have the mental capacity to make estate planning decisions because of cognitive decline caused by old age. Or, an heir may say that another individual exerted undue influence over the testator and manipulated his or her decisions. Other grounds for a will contest include allegations of forgery, fraud, mistake, or improper execution.  

How to Prevent Your Will from Being Contested

If you are worried that your will may be contested, make sure it is properly drafted, unambiguous, and that you have proven your testamentary capacity. You may wish to get a letter from your doctor attesting to your mental acuity. Furthermore, discuss your estate plans with loved ones so they know what to expect.

You may also consider using a no-contest clause to reduce the chances of an heir challenging the validity of your will. A no-contest clause is a provision in a will that discourages heirs from challenging the will in court. For example, a no-contest clause may state that if an heir contests the will unsuccessfully, that he or she loses all of his or her inheritance.

What To Do If Your Family Member’s Will Has Been Contested

Will contests can be very stressful and complicated for family members and loved ones of the deceased. It is especially challenging for the executor of the estate. If your loved one’s will is being challenged in probate court, you will need to gather as much information as you can about why the will is being contested. Also, educate yourself about the probate process and what your rights are as an executor or heir. Keep a level head and avoid worsening the situation by lashing out at others or saying things you will later regret.

The probate court has the ultimate authority to either uphold the will or to declare part or all of the will invalid. The court assumes that a will is valid unless there is compelling evidence to the contrary, so the burden of proof is on the person contesting the will to prove why it is invalid.

Call Us For Help

If an heir believes that a will was invalid because of undue influence, forgery, lack of testamentary capacity, or another reason, they can challenge the will in court. A will contest is a very tense experience for family members to go through and can lead to your will being invalidated.

Our Naperville estate planning lawyers can help you draft a will and other estate planning documents that meet your needs and reduce the chances of a will contest as much as possible. Call our office at 630-756-1160 today and set up a confidential consultation to learn more.


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Please note: These blogs have been created over a period of time and laws and information can change. For the most current information on a topic you are interested in please seek proper legal counsel.

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