Contesting A Will: What You Need To Know

Law Blog

When a will of a deceased relative does not offer the inheritance you feel you deserve, you have two basic options. The first is to simply accept the provisions of the will and let the matter drop. The other choice is to challenge the will in court. Here is a look at what you need to know if you decide on a challenge.


You cannot mount a challenge to a will just because you feel you were treated unfairly. You must have legal standing or any attempt you make to dispute the terms of the will is going to be dismissed. Two types of people have the standing to contest a will. One group is those who are specifically named in the will. The other group is people who would have been an heir to the estate if the decedent had died without leaving a will.

Also, a minor does not have the standing to contest a will but a parent or guardian has the right to file a challenge on the minor's behalf.


Courts generally uphold the provisions of a will unless there is a good reason not to. You will need to show the court that you have sound reasons for your challenge. For example, if the person making the will does not have the mental capacity to understand what they are doing, this could be grounds for overturning the will's provisions. 

Another argument for contesting a will is that fraud or forgery was involved in producing the will. Also, if someone used undue influence, such as physically abusing the decedent, to get them to sign a will, this is grounds for a challenge. When a will is not properly signed or witnessed, you can contest the will on this basis, as well. A will must follow all of the technical provisions of the relevant state laws. If it does not do so, it could be declared invalid when challenged.

No Contest

Some states enforce clauses that prevent anyone who contests a will from inheriting any assets from that will. For example, if you are left $50,000 in a relative's will, but believe you should have been left much more, you would lose any rights to the $50,000 under a no-contest clause if you contest. Not every state recognizes and enforces these clauses and even the ones that do might make an expectation if the court believes the challenger has "probable cause" to challenge the will.

Contesting a will is a lengthy and complex process. Consult with an estates and wills lawyer to learn more.


12 December 2022

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