When you suspect a will has been forged and/or manipulated, you should challenge the will so that the properties and assets are rightfully distributed among the beneficiaries.
When a person passes away, their properties undergo a probate process to determine whom they shall go to, especially if the deceased has finalized their last will and testament. This will can be contested in the probate court if you’re hoping for a favorable outcome.
A will is a legal document that conveys a person’s final wishes about their properties and estates. It allows a person to take control of their assets even after their death. Failure to create a last will and testament requires this to be settled by the court. However, life insurance will automatically be passed on to the written beneficiaries and not the probate court. The last will and testament will indicate the assignment of properties, which also includes the percentages if shared among siblings. Along with this, it could also provide conditions for claiming these properties upon their death.
However, if you want to challenge a will, you’ll need to invest in finding the right lawyer to help you dispute a will. The right lawyer will be able to set the will straight.
Step 1: Research
Before challenging a will, make sure that you have the standing to do so. Not everyone is allowed to challenge a will, such as the people who weren’t named as a beneficiary in another will, and minors since they still lack legal rights. In line with this, you should do your research about the laws for challenging a will in your state.
You should also determine if the reason for your challenge is covered under the state probate law. That’ll help you determine if the case is valid in court, which allows you to have a better chance of winning your challenge. Listed below are the grounds on which you can challenge a will:
- The will wasn’t signed with the proper legal formalities.
- You suspect that the will-maker had mental challenges.
- The descendant was unduly influenced upon writing their will.
- You suspect that the will is fraudulent or forged.
It’s recommended that you consult your lawyer to verify if your grounds are valid for challenging a will. The help of highly experienced lawyers with these types of cases can be very valuable. However, you may not always find the best lawyer suited for you; in such cases it’s better to seek help from renowned law firms. The best ones have great lawyers to help make your case, and they may even work with a legal recruitment agency that specializes in finding the right lawyers for the job. This can give you the best support for a favorable outcome.
You should also know when to raise your objection against the will. Even if you have proper standing and the right grounds for challenging a will, you should do so promptly since only a limited time will be given to allow objections so they can proceed with expediting properties and assets to their next rightful owner. Some can be a short duration of a few weeks or as long as a few years. So, proper research to find out the exact timeline is recommended.
Step 2: Make a Written Statement
You’ll need to work with your lawyer to create a written statement or affidavit, which includes the history of your relationship with the deceased, details about your financial situation, your health, and the health of your spouse, and any dependents such as children.
Step 3: File a Petition
Once you have everything ready, the next step is for the challenge in probate court. To raise your objection about the will and testament, you should file a petition to the probate court. While you can do this yourself, it’s still valuable to be aided by professionals so that you can have an edge over your contest.
Step 4: Gather the Right Evidence
After you’ve filed your petition, the court will schedule a directions hearing for your case. While waiting for the date, you should maximize this time to gather evidence for a stronger case to have a greater chance of winning in the probate court.
The directions hearing is not a formal hearing. This is the time when the judge talks to your lawyer about your petition and asks further questions. After clarification, they’ll provide a mediation date that allows the much formal hearing to take place.
When you’re filing a challenge against a will, make sure that you have valid and thorough evidence for a better chance at winning your petition. You may consult with your lawyer to verify any information gathered, and they can also help you with the evidence you should have on the mediation day.
The loss of a loved one can be a terrible thing. It’s a lot more terrible if their will isn’t right and if you believe it isn’t the way it’s supposed to be. When you suspect a will has been forged and/or manipulated, you should challenge the will so that the properties and assets are rightfully distributed among the beneficiaries.
That being said, it’s always recommended that you consult with your lawyer so that they can advise you on what you should do and if you have the proper grounds to challenge a will.