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How do you challenge the validity of a will?

Sometimes, not everyone is happy with the terms of a family member's will. People feel they were accidentally left out of a will or that another person prevailed on the testator not to include someone. Emotions can run very high. Can a disappointed party challenge a will in court? There is a process to do this; it is called a will contest. This blog post will describe how will contests work and who can file them.

Not everyone can file a will contest on anyone's will. In order to be recognized by the probate court, a person must have standing. In order to have standing, a person must be either named on the face of the will or a family member who would inherit from the testator if the will is declared invalid.

A named party in a will is a beneficiary if they are designated to receive something in the will. Beneficiaries can be family members, and they can also be friends of the deceased and institutions. Institutions that might be named in wills include colleges, charities and houses of worship. If a family member, friend or institution felt that they were promised to be a beneficiary but didn't receive the amount they believe they were promised, they might wish to launch a will contest.

Heirs are family members who would inherit from the deceased person if there was no will. Again, if an heir doesn't receive the amount they thought they would in a will, they might wish to contest the will.

Will contests are often fueled by the emotions of the people contesting the will. It is always recommended that a person have a good legal basis for challenging a will before doing so. An experienced estate planning attorney can provide advice to potential will contestants based on the law and the available evidence.

Source: FindLaw, "Who Can Challenge a Will?," accessed on April 29, 2018

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