Wills are important legal documents. When a person has one, the estate’s executor uses the document to know how to distribute property. Still, wills do not always eliminate potential problems. If you think your loved one’s will does not give you your fair share, you may want to contest it in court.
To file a legal challenge, you must have legal standing. Law students take entire courses about the complicated concept. Generally, though, you can think about standing as a legally valid interest in the estate. That is, to have standing to contest a will, you must have a personal or financial interest in its outcome.
Are you a disinherited heir-at-law?
Not everyone drafts a will before their death. If someone passes on without a will, courts use intestacy laws to decide who gets a share of the estate. The law calls these individuals heirs-at-law. Spouses, direct descendants and siblings usually fall into the category. Of course, your loved one can circumvent heirs-at-law with a will. If the will disinherits you and you are an heir-at-law, you probably have legal standing to contest the will.
Were you included in a previous will?
Generally, the last will a person writes is the one courts use to distribute property. If your loved one included you in a previous will and left you out of a subsequent one, you likely have legal standing to challenge the latter will. Also, if your loved one made you an executor in an earlier will, you can probably dispute the validity of the superseding document.
Does the will have a no-contest clause?
Your loved one’s will may contain a no-contest clause. This provision helps avoid protracted disputes by discouraging heirs from filing a challenge. If your loved one’s will has such a clause, you may lose your share of the estate by contesting the will.
You may deeply believe that your loved one’s will is invalid or fraudulent. Still, before you can challenge the will in court, you must prove you have legal standing. If you do, you may be able to ask a court to intervene.