What’s needed to contest a will

On Behalf of | Oct 10, 2022 | Estate Planning, Probate

Even if you think you have a good reason, it is more challenging than many people believe to contest a will. Generally speaking, there are a series of hoops you need to pass through to raise valid concerns that can be heard in a court of law.

Legal standing

Those who want to contest a will must have legal standing. Common reasons that give legal standing include:

  • You are a beneficiary in the current will.
  • You were a beneficiary in a prior will.
  • You would be heir if intestacy law applies — there was no will, and the law divides the estate among the family.

Valid legal reasons to challenge a will

Those with legal standing must have a legal reason to challenge or contest the will. Saying that the will is unfair is not valid legal grounds. Nor is it reasonable grounds to say that the decedent said you could have it (unless you can provide evidence that they intended to gift something). The details of each estate and will are different, but some common valid reasons include:

  • Lack of testamentary capacity: This argues that the person making or updating the will was not mentally up to the task (not being of sound mind). The person making the will did not understand the value of gifts, what they owned or didn’t own, or who their natural heirs were.
  • Created under duress: This argues that the will was fraudulently created due to undue influence by a person caring for them, or close to them. Someone may also trick the decedent into signing something or even forge the signature.
  • Another will: Sometimes, a will appears as the family goes through the decedent’s papers, and the will being probated is different.
  • The will isn’t valid: A valid will must meet specific standards here in Kentucky.

Generally speaking, any new will that departs radically for no apparent reason from the previous one is a red flag.

The next step

If the plaintiff has standing and legal grounds, it is wise to discuss the dispute with an estate law attorney with experience handling disputes in court. People who handle probate litigation can help their client weigh their options and determine if going to court is the best way to resolve the matter.