Contesting a will, or a ‘will contest’, is a legal objection to terms of or the validity of a last will and testament. Contests to a will are usually initiated by family members or close relatives of the deceased. In most instances, the challenger feels that he or she has lost out on his or her rightful inheritance.
Typically, most last will contests are instituted by the spouse, children or, in some cases, grandchildren of the deceased. This is because they are generally the only class of beneficiary that have a legal or moral right to benefit from a deceased person’s estate. Contests to a will are likely to focus on one or more of the following assertions:
If the challenger is ultimately successful in contesting the will, the court will order a re-distribution of the deceased’s estate based on the determination of court or, where the will is deemed to be invalidly made, in accordance with the rules of intestacy.
Contests to a will are not very common. In fact, many last wills now contain “no-contest” clauses. A “no-contest” clause normally states that if a beneficiary under a last will & testament contests or challenges the will, then that challenger will get nothing under the will or else a token gift like $10. So, for this reason, it’s better to give a token give to someone in order to disinherit them, and include a no-contest clause, compared to simply not mentioning them in your will at all.
Contesting a will is not a straightforward process. So, it is recommended you speak to a lawyer if you are concerned about someone contesting your will or if you are thinking of contesting a will made by somebody else.
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For more information on wills, check out some of our other articles on wills in our Learning Center.
If you would prefer a more in-depth understanding of wills and to learn how to make your own, check out our book How to Make a Last Will & Testament. “Make Your Own Last Will and Testament” includes a plain English review of the matters you need to consider when making a will, and includes all of the instructions and template forms necessary to make your own will. It will show you how to leave money and property to your loved ones, avoid intestacy, appoint guardians for your children, save on legal fees and probate, much more.
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