A will contest or challenge cannot be brought by just anyone. Instead, the courts have a clear definition as to who can contest a will and who is unable to. Also, there are specific requirements for challenging a will; and one cannot dispute simply because they disagree with their inheritance amount.
Probate laws vary state-by-state; therefore, it is in the best interest of a beneficiary to consult an attorney that offers estate planning in San Diego. An attorney can review the will and advise as to what challenges may be brought in front of the probate court judge.
Basics of Probate
Primary probate laws require that only interested persons contest a will. Also, those interested individuals must have valid legal reasons for doing so. Interested individuals may include children, heirs, spouses, creditors, and those that may have a property right or claim against the estate.
Typically, challengers fall into intestate heirs, beneficiaries named in a previous will, and beneficiaries named in a subsequent will.
Qualifications for a Challenge
The courts only allow certain challenges in probate court, and some states have stricter limitations. The main requirement that all states have is standing. An individual that has standing to challenge a will is one named in the will, or someone who is not named, but would inherit from the estate if the will was deemed invalid.
To challenge the will, the individual must show that they have standing. This is done by proving they were named in the will (including a past version), or show to the probate court that they received something valuable from the testator.
The Use of a No Contest Clause
A no contest clause is a condition placed in the last will by an attorney that offers estate planning in San Diego. The no contest clause typically states that anyone who challenges the will forfeits their inheritance dictated in the will. Essentially it is a take-it-or-leave-it situation.
Not all states or counties recognize and accept no contest clauses. Therefore, an attorney should be consulted before placing one in an estate plan.
Heirs Challenging a Will
Heirs have standing to contest a will. This is because if the testator were to pass away without having a will, a beneficiary receives a share of the estate via the laws of intestate. Heirs are primary relatives of the testator who naturally inherit under the laws of intestate. This includes spouses, children, parents, grandparents, or siblings.
If an heir was omitted from the estate plan, they might challenge the estate plan about their exclusion.
Beneficiaries Challenge Too
Beneficiaries are not always natural heirs to the estate nor are they related to the testator. However, they have the right to contest the will. Recipients may include a spouse, adopted children or stepchildren, friends, charities, and charitable organizations.
Those concerned about contests should have their will drafted by an attorney doing estate planning in San Diego. With a properly drafted estate plan, heirs and beneficiaries will have fewer opportunities to challenge an estate plan.
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