In estate planning, the two main tools we use are wills and trusts. One of the reasons why it is best to have your will prepared by competent counsel instead of using a form or online document service, is to prevent a will contest.
Exactly what is a will contest, you ask?
Contesting a Will.
A will contest is the legal process by which someone challenges the validity of a will.
In order to challenge a will (to “contest it”), however, there must be grounds for believing that the will is invalid. In other words, somebody cannot just challenge a will because he doesn’t like the amount of his inheritance. There must be some basis for believing that the will is invalid.
There are a number of grounds for contesting a will. For example, if there is reason to believe that someone unduly influenced the decedent to make or change the terms of his or her will, that can be grounds for a will contest.
Another ground commonly asserted is that the formalities of making the will were not complied with, so the will is invalid. Each state has its own rules concerning the specific requirements that must be met for a will to be valid, which is why it is important to consult competent estate counsel.
Who Can Challenge a Will?
Another limitation to will contests is that not just anyone can challenge a will.
In order to legally contest a will, the person challenging it must have “standing.” Standing requires that you have an interest to gain from the will and that you somehow are harmed by the terms of the will as it is (which is why you are challenging its validity).
Generally, the people who have standing to challenge a will are the spouse or heirs of the decedent. Again, however, because state laws vary on who has standing to contest a will, you should consult counsel.
Why Challenge a Will?
The reasons for challenging are a will are, as we said, because it is somehow invalid.
If the person contesting the will wins, the entire will or a specific provision of it, will be invalidated. If the entire will is invalidated, the decedent’s estate will be distributed according to the intestacy laws.
Will contests are time-consuming and expensive. They should not be undertaken without careful consideration and preferably only after consulting with counsel.
To prevent others from contesting your will, it is important to have your will drafted by competent, experienced counsel.
We Can Help
We are estate planning attorneys. We personally prepare all the documents you need. We have offices in Sedona, Arizona. We serve all of Arizona. We offer free consultations and we can help you with your estate planning needs. Call us at 928-282-1483 or Contact us to set up your free appointment.