After the death of a loved one, his or her estate goes to probate and the assets are distributed to the heirs and beneficiaries according to the wishes outlined in the final will and testament. In the vast majority of cases, this process runs smoothly and without issue. What if you suspect that, due to a lack of capacity, undue influence, or other reason, the final will and testament of your family member is not valid? If that is the case, you are allowed as an heir to challenge, or contest, the will in probate court. However, it is critical to the potential success of your case that you challenge the will as soon as possible after the will is submitted to the court. Failure to do so can permanently affect your chances of a successful will contest and ensuring that your loved one’s true wishes for their estate are upheld.
Why Speed Matters in a Will Contest
Challenging a will as quickly as possible is critical to the success of your claim for a number of different reasons. First, submitting a will contest quickly prevents the executor of the estate from distributing assets to heirs and beneficiaries. It is incredibly difficult to recollect assets from an estate once they have been given out by the administrator to various heirs and designees of the will. Second, challenging a will quickly preserves evidence that may be lost with time. This includes witness statements and testimony, prior copies of a will, and other relevant evidence that could be lost with time. Third, failure to challenge a will quickly could bar your case altogether if not filed within the statute of limitations set by the court. Every state is different, so you should check with a local attorney, but typically an heir that wishes to contest a will has between two and three years to file the challenge or else the will contest can be tossed out by the court.
How a Lawyer can Help
If you wish to challenge a will, it is crucial that you hire an experienced probate attorney to help you with your case. A probate lawyer will be able to help you file a will contest as quickly as possible once the will has been submitted to the court. This includes filing a petition with the court to formally challenge the contents of the will as well as providing notice to all other heirs and the executor that the challenge is being filed. An experienced probate attorney can help gather evidence to prove the invalidity of the will, including witness statements, medical records, prior versions of the will, and more. Finally, a knowledgeable probate attorney will be able to build the best possible case and argue those points in court as to why this version of the will is invalid and should be set aside.
Contact an Experienced Attorney
If you are struggling with the probate process or have questions about this article, don’t hesitate to contact us. We are happy to answer your questions.