Challenging a Will
If you are beginning the process of writing your will, the thought of someone challenging it after you die is not a pleasant one. Is this a possibility you need to be worried about this happening? It is extremely rare for a will to be challenged, but it does happen occasionally. Further, it is even rarer for a challenge to successfully change how the inheritance is distributed. Roughly 99% of wills pass through probate without being changed. Despite the very low chance, the following explains the rules surrounding challenging a will.
A Valid Reason to Change a Will
In order for a will to be challenged, someone needs what is called “standing.” Standing is essentially just a legally valid reason to challenge a will. Usually, only someone who would gain inheritance if the deceased did not have a will at all has standing. This may include spouses, children, and creditors. Challenges against a will typically fall into one of three categories:
- Beneficiaries of a prior will – If you wrote a will and named a certain person as a beneficiary, but then later wrote a new will where that person is no longer a beneficiary, he or she may have the right to challenge the most recent will. If successful, the previous will may be accepted instead.
- Beneficiaries of a subsequent will – If your most recent will names someone as a beneficiary, but you decide to go with an older will instead, he or she may have the right to challenge the older will. If successful, the newer will may be accepted instead.
- Intestate heirs – Intestate laws are the laws that decide who receives what inheritance in the event that no will exists. If someone would normally receive property under intestate laws, but your will does not designate any property for that person, he or she may have the right to challenge the will. If successful, the will may become invalid and the estate will be distributed according to intestate laws alone.
The most important thing you can do to avoid having your will challenged is to work with a will lawyer. It is your attorney’s job to make sure that your final wishes are followed exactly and that any possible challenges will be unsuccessful. Additionally, you will need to name someone as the executor of your will. This person will be responsible for arguing that any challenges against the will are invalid so it can be carried out as you intended it to be.