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When Can a Last Will and Testament Be Contested?

Posted on in Last Will & Testament

IL probate lawyerFollowing a person’s death, the terms of their last will and testament will detail how their assets should be distributed to their family members or other beneficiaries. However, there are some situations where a person’s heirs or those who expect to inherit property may be unhappy about the decisions made in a will. During the probate process, certain parties may be able to contest a person’s will. For those who wish to challenge a will or executors who need to respond to this type of challenge, it is important to understand when and how a will may be contested.

Grounds for Contesting a Will

To contest a will, a person must be an “interested party,” meaning that they are a beneficiary named in the will or a person who would be eligible to inherit property if a person did not have a valid will in place. Will contests must be filed within six months after a will was filed in probate court.

While a person’s heirs or loved ones who believe that they should inherit certain assets may disagree with the decisions about how the person’s property will be distributed to their beneficiaries, this is generally not a valid reason to contest a will. A challenge will be based on claims that the will that was filed in probate court was invalid. Grounds for contesting the validity of a will include:

  • The person did not understand what they were signing - A beneficiary may claim that the person did not have the capacity to understand the decisions made in their will. Generally, a person must have an understanding of the assets they own, the value of these assets, and how they wish to allocate their property to different beneficiaries. It may be possible to provide evidence showing that the person did not fully understand these issues at the time they signed their will, such as a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia prior to the date the will was signed. If a court determines that the person did not have “testamentary capacity” to make decisions about the distribution of their assets, the will may be invalidated.
  • Another party unfairly influenced the decisions made in the will - Family members may be concerned that someone exerted an influence on their loved one and convinced them to make changes to their will that went against their actual wishes. Cases involving “undue influence” will often involve people who had a “fiduciary relationship” with the person when they made their will, such as family members who helped manage their finances or caretakers who provided medical or personal services. If people with these types of relationships were involved in the creation or modification of a person’s will, this may create a presumption of undue influence that may allow a will to be challenged.
  • The will was fraudulent - Beneficiaries may be concerned about the possibility of forgery, such as the modification a will after it was signed. A will may also be challenged if a beneficiary believes that someone else signed it in the person’s name or that the person was tricked into signing the will because they believed it was another type of document.

Contact Our Wheaton Probate Litigation Lawyers

If you believe that the will filed following your loved one’s death is invalid, or if you are an executor who needs to defend against a will contest, Stock, Carlson & Asso. LLC can help you determine your legal options. We will provide you with representation during litigation addressing these issues, and we will work to make sure your loved one’s wishes will be carried out correctly. Contact our DuPage County contested estates attorneys at 630-665-2500 to discuss your case in a confidential consultation.

Sources:

https://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs4.asp?DocName=075500050HArt.+VIII&ActID=2104&ChapterID=60&SeqStart=10100000&SeqEnd=10400000

https://www.illinoiscourts.gov/Resources/6c936701-b541-4dfe-bf73-9d073d6a7847/200.00.pdf

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