Estate litigation is a legal process that is performed when a dispute exists after a person dies. The total of that person’s assets, called their estate, is entered into probate, where the estate is collected and valued. Once the estate has entered into probate, anyone who has a claim against the estate—either that the deceased owed them money or that they disagree with something about the way the estate is managed—then they can take that claim to court. A will contest is when a claim is made against the deceased’s will, either to prevent it from entering into probate in the first place or to remove it from probate once it has already entered.
One of the most common reasons for a will contest is a lack of capacity. If someone thinks that the deceased did not have the mental capacity to create an accurate and aware last will and testament, they will contest the will in court. The other primary reason for a will contest is the suspicion of undue influence. If there is suspicion that the deceased was manipulated or misled during the production of the will, a claim of undue influence can be made, which would also lead to arguing the case in court.
Once a will contest has been made, court proceedings ensue similarly to usual, with lawyers arguing in favor of upholding the will and in favor of eschewing the will. If the will contest is successful, the will is ruled null and void. If the contest is unsuccessful the will stands. Multiple contests can be made against the same will if there are multiple valid claims.
Contact us for more information about estate litigation and planning.