When someone dies without a will, there can be a lot of unhappiness as a result. Family members may fight with one another, and loved ones not connected by biological or legal ties may feel intensely disappointed because the lack of an estate plan means they receive nothing.
Typically, families are grateful to those who invest the time and effort into creating thorough estate plans, including wills, before they die. Those documents make for easier estate administration and help reduce the conflicts among family members after someone dies.
Of course, not everyone is happy with the contents of the will that determines their inheritance rights. People often feel disappointed, jealous and angry over the distribution of assets someone outlined in their will. Sometimes, one or more possible beneficiaries will want to contest the will that a testator leaves behind when they die. What does it mean to contest a will?
Contesting a will involves challenging its validity
When a family member or likely beneficiary of the estate contests a will, what they really do is assert that there is a problem with the document. They want the probate courts to prevent the will from guiding the distribution of the decadent’s property.
In some cases, they may claim that the most recent version of the will is invalid, possibly because their loved one drafted it after a diagnosis with Alzheimer’s disease or similar debilitating medical condition. People can also contest wills if they suspect undue influence manipulated the testator’s plans or if there is reason to believe that some kind of fraud occurred.
Finally, if the family members believe that the existing documents violate state law or their rights, they can contest the will in those circumstances as well.
What does a will contest achieve?
A will contest typically increases the cost of probate administration and reduces the pool of assets available to beneficiaries. If successful, a contest may result in the courts invalidating a particular will. They may reinstitute a previous version of that document, or they might treat the estate as though the individual died without any testamentary documents.
Learning more about will contests and other forms of probate litigation can help you protect your rights as an estate beneficiary or family member of someone who recently died.