Contesting A Will: How To Win A Fair Estate Settlement

Contesting a trust in estate planning

Contesting a will is one way to ensure that you’re fairly included and treated in estate settlement. However, the process is marred with intricacies and potential conflicts among beneficiaries and other involved parties.

Therefore, when you feel like contesting a will, you must have a good reason and evidence for it and prepare for the legal and emotional battles.

Nonetheless, contesting a will is necessary and protected by the law to ensure you enjoy your rights as an interested party or beneficiary of an estate.

This guide addresses issues that call for a will contest and the necessary steps to ensure you win the case and receive your fair share of the estate.

Key Takeaways

  • Contesting a will is a legal action usually initiated by someone who believes they’re unfairly excluded or treated.
  • The contest must meet specific legal requirements, deadlines, and grounds to be accepted in a probate court for hearing.
  • Record Click can help you gather evidence, connect to expert attorneys, and successfully contest will and other estate matters.

Things To Know Before Contesting a Will

Contesting a will

Gather substantial evidence when contesting a will

You must meet specific legal requirements before expressing discontent on the estate settlement of the will.

Here is a breakdown of the right time, person, and grounds to contest a will;

  1. You Can Only Contest After the Testator Passes On

If you notice wrongdoing in the will when the testator is still alive, you must wait until their demise to contest. This is because the testator might edit or rewrite their will at any time, rendering any accusations null and void.

  1. You Must File Your Contest in Time

Different jurisdictions have different deadlines for contest from the date of notice of probate. For example, California offers 120 days, while Florida has 90 days. Missing the deadline could deprive you of the right to challenge the will.

  1. A Contestant Must Be an Interested Party

    Contesting a will

    Be sure of your grounds to contest

You can only contest a will if you have a direct interest in the estate, such as being named as a beneficiary. Interested parties include an heir to the testator, a beneficiary in the will, or an estate creditor.

However, not being an interested party means you may fail in the contest. So, being an acquaintance of the testator, a beneficiary in a previous will, or a beneficiary of a designated benefit or trust does not give you the legal standing to contest a will.

  1. Your Contest Must Have Valid Grounds

You must display substantial evidence and proof that the will is invalid or not authentic. Common compelling grounds that you must provide include:

  • Undue Influence: You must show that the testator was manipulated, pressured, threatened, coerced, or deceived to make changes to the will.
  • Fraud: You must prove that someone impersonated the testator, forged their documents or signature, or tricked the testator into signing the will.
  • Lack of Testamentary Capacity: You must prove that the testator lacked the mental ability to make the will due to health conditions, age, mental disorder, etc.
  • Improper Execution: You must prove that the testator failed to follow all the legal formalities in drafting the will, such as failure to sign and include witnesses.

Whatever your ground for contesting a will, you must supply evidence such as medical records, additional documents, witnesses, etc.

  1. Contesting Is Not Always Possible

In some situations, it may be impossible to contest a will. Some of the common reasons for this include:

  • Presence Of A No-Contest Clause: A no-contest clause in a will seeks to forfeit the inheritance of anyone who contests the will. Although the clause is meant to discourage frivolous challenges to the will, some jurisdictions may fail to enforce it when the contest has probable cause or is in good faith.
  • The Estate Is Insolvent: The estate is considered insolvent when it is exceeded by the debts and taxes. In this case, nothing would be left to inherit, and any contest would be in vain and a waste of time and money.

Step-By-Step Guide on How to Contest a Will

Instructions on how to contest a will

Contesting a will is a procedure

While the process to contest a will may vary with individual cases, here is a breakdown of the crucial steps you must take to ensure a smooth probate process;

  1. File A Petition: Place a caveat at the probate court expressing your wish to challenge the will and highlight your grounds and relationship with the testator.
  2. Gather Evidence: Collect and gather information to help you prove your case before the probate court.
  3. Attend Hearings: Appear before the court with your evidence and attorney to argue your case.
  4. Accept the Verdict or Appeal: If the verdict is against your wish, you may choose to accept. Alternatively, you may appeal, which could be time-consuming and costly, not to mention the minute probability of succeeding.

How To Win a Will Contest

A woman celebrating after successful will contest

How to win a Will contest

Winning a will contest requires more than substantial evidence before the probate court; you must work with the right professionals and know how to navigate the probate process.

Here are crucial tips and strategies that can increase your chances of winning:

  • Choose the Right Professionals: You need heir researchers and lawyers with experience and expertise in probate litigation and estate planning. Ensure the professionals understand your objectives and have a high success rate in court matters.
  • Focus on Key Issues: Your case should prioritize the most critical issues and avoid weak or irrelevant points that could undermine your case. For example, you can prioritize the testator’s mental state when writing the will instead of their preferences or personality.
  • Present Concrete Evidence: Your evidence must be credible and sufficient to support your will contest. You should also be prepared for the defense from the other side.
  • Consider Alternative Options: You can mediate a compromise or negotiate a settlement with the executor or other beneficiaries. This process is cost-effective, quick, and less stressful, not to mention the surety of receiving a share of the estate.

How Record Click Can Help

Record Click is a professional heir research company that helps locate and verify the identity and relationship of potential beneficiaries of an estate.

Our team of experts can quickly locate concrete evidence in the form of birth certificates, divorce decrees, and other relevant information to solidify your case.

Grab our free consultation to express your concerns and questions, and we shall provide professional and honest advice according to your case.

READ MORE: Record Click’s Heir Research Services, Costs, And Expectations.