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Probate and Estate Litigation Blog

How to challenge a will

It is not uncommon for people in St. Paul to feel blindsided by the wills of their deceased relatives and loved ones. There are many reasons why you may take issue with your inheritance. If you are receiving an inheritance that doesn't seem right or you do not agree with an inheritance someone else is receiving, you should learn how to contest a will. This can help you to avoid unnecessary distress and conflict with your relatives.

Eligibility

Not just anyone can contest a will. If you are a named beneficiary in the will or are an interstate heir, you are eligible to challenge it. Interstate heirs are determined by the state's intestacy laws and include anyone who may have inherited if the deceased person had not left a will. When someone dies without a will, their property generally goes first to their spouse, then their children, and finally to distant relatives if there is no spouse or kids. Being eligible is not the only stipulation you must prove to contest a will; you must also have sufficient grounds for doing so.

Undue influence

Some people use undue influence to get their loved ones to write them into their wills. To contest a will because of undue influence, you must prove that the person who exerted the influence over the testator sought to gain from the situation. Such manipulation can come from anyone who has been in contact with your deceased relative, such as a distant family member, caregiver or close friend.

Incompetency

Testators' mental health at the time they drafted their will is important. If they were not of sound mind, able to make rational decisions or mentally incompetent in any way, that is sufficient grounds for any eligible party to challenge the will. For example, if your grandfather created his will 10 years ago and developed dementia during the last two years of his life, his mental capacity could not be used as a legitimate reason for you to contest his will. He wrote his will 10 years ago, while he was still mentally competent.

There are other circumstances, such as fraud, forgery and improper execution, that you can use as sufficient grounds to contest a will if you can prove them. You should file your challenge in a timely manner, because there is a statute of limitations involved.

You should not make the decision to contest a loved one's will lightly. Carefully consider the value of assets involved and your relationships with the family. If you do not agree with the instructions left behind in your loved one's will, you should discuss the matter with an attorney so you can learn about your options.

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