Who can contest a will?

| Jul 1, 2021 | Estate Planning |

Most people’s wills go unchallenged. People assume that what the deceased wrote is what they wanted to happen to their assets. Yet, occasionally someone has a reason to doubt the veracity of the will contents. When that happens, they may want to mount a challenge to the will. Any will challenge will delay the distribution of assets and cause additional costs to the estate when dealing with the contest. Therefore the law limits who can challenge and why they can challenge.

Can I contest a will?

To contest a will, you must be a beneficiary in either the current will or a previous version. Alternatively, you can challenge if you would receive something if there were no will. When someone dies without a will or dies intestate, as it is known, state laws stipulate which family members become beneficiaries.

You also need to ensure you are in time to contest a will. In Virginia, you typically only have one year to do so.

Do I have grounds to contest a will?

There are only specific reasons you can contest a will. Not liking it is not one of them. In short, there needs to be something wrong with the will or how it was made. For example:

  • The will is false
  • The will does not comply with legal standards
  • There is a more recent version that supersedes it
  • The person did not know what they were doing when they wrote the will due to mental illness
  • Someone pressured the person or abused their position of privilege to persuade the person to make the will in their favor

If you pass the first two questions, there is one more to ask: should I contest the will? It is crucial to understand the potential costs and time it will take, your chances of succeeding, and how it will affect your relationship with others.

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