Estate Litigation FAQs

What if someone objects to the Will?
If someone files an objection to the Will, or produces another Will, a “Will Contest” has begun.Will contests are not uncommon, but few people actually win one. Still, they can cost a lot of money and time.

Who can contest a Will?
Only a person with “standing” can contest a Will. This means the person must have a personal financial stake in the outcome. Examples of people with standing to contest a Will are:

  • a child or spouse who was cut out of the Will.
  • children who feel that the local charity should not get all the parent’s assets,
  • anyone who was treated more favorably in an earlier Will.
  • Sometimes, there is a Will contest because someone wants a different person, bank, or trust company to serve as personal representative for the estate, or as a trustee of trusts created by the Will.
  • There many even be disputes as to who are the heirs at law of the decedent.

When can a Will be contested?
Most challenges to Wills are by potential heirs or beneficiaries who got little or nothing. Will contests must be filed in Probate court within a certain number of days after receiving a probate citation.

Examples of reasons to challenge a Will are:

  • there is a later Will which, if valid, would replace the earlier Will;
  • the Will was made at a time the decedent was not mentally competent to make a Will;
  • the Will was the result of fraud, mistake or “undue influence”;
  • the Will was not properly “executed” (signed by the decedent);
  • the so-called Will is actually a forgery;
  • for some other reason (such as a pre-existing contract) the Will is invalid. The Surrogates Court may invalidate all of the Will or only the challenged portion. If the entire Will is found invalid, the proceeds will probably be distributed according to the state laws of intestacy, unless there is a prior revoked Will that is revived and admitted to probate.

What if there are disputes after Probate?
Once the will is admitted to probate then throughout the probate process there may be disputes. Anyone may make a claim for money or property on the estate, either by petitioning the personal representative or the court. If the claim is rejected, the claimant may file a lawsuit to attempt to prove the claim and collect money.