Klenk Law

Will Contests and Will Challenges

As Will Challenge Attorneys, we regularly represent clients in defending and challenging the validity of wills and trusts. Typically, these disputes involve a challenge or contest the validity of a will or trust as a result of many factors, including, but not limited to, undue influence, forgery, fraud and lack of testamentary capacity. Our years of experience focusing on these challenges allow us to explain these complex matters to clients in a simple, direct fashion. We work with clients to analyze the case’s strengths and weaknesses and to arrive at a plan of attack or defense that is in your best interest.

What is a Will Contest or a Will Challenge?

The heart of a Will Challenge is the belief that the offered Will does not reflect the testator’s actual intent or that the Will is otherwise invalid. A Will Contest begins with a formal objection to the validity of a Will. We file these formal objections in specific locations, such as the Register of Wills, Surrogate, or the Orphans’ Court. Specific procedural rules govern Will Challenges, and failure to follow these standards can lead to the case’s dismissal. It is of vital importance to correctly craft and file the initial Will Challenge Petition. If filed incorrectly, crucial issues might be later barred. For more detailed information, see my page “Will Contests for Non-Lawyer.” 

What is the Basis of a Will Challenge?

Just claiming that a Will does not reflect the deceased’s intent is not enough. There must be a legal basis and theory for dismissing the offered Will. Examples of grounds for a Will Challenge include:

  • Undue Influence
  • Duress or Coercion
  • Fraud
  • Forgery
  • Lack of Testamentary Capacity
  • Superseded Will – If you discover a more recently executed Will before the Statute of Limitations Period lapses, you can have your Estate Litigation Attorney submit the Will to replace the prior filed Will. Interested Parties may challenge this new Will. Or, at a minimum, the new Will shall require precise shifting of assets from the current executor to the new executor. A Formal Accounting might be necessary or new purchase agreements and bank accounts. Develop a sound strategy with an experienced Probate Lawyer.
  • Improper Will Execution – Every jurisdiction has specific rules regarding proper Will execution. If not followed, the Will is invalid. A Will Contest based on Improper Will Execution arises when an interested person claims the rules were not followed and seeks an order to exclude the offered Will.

Common Questions about Will Challenges:

Can I Contest a Will?

If within the statute of limitations period, an interested party can challenge a Will.

How long does it take to Contest a Will?

A Will Contest that does not settle, and goes to trial, can take up to two years until completion.

Who can Contest a Will?

An interested party can contest a Will. An interested party is someone who can demonstrate financial harm created by the Will.

What makes a Will Invalid?

Several reasons can make a Will invalid including Undue Influence, Duress or Coercion, Fraud, Forgery, and Lack of Testamentary Capacity.

What do Will Formalities mean?

In the context of a Will Contest, “Will Formalities” refers to the state rules regarding proper Will execution. For example, the number of witnesses and signature locations. If these rules are not followed the Will is not a Will.

How do you Contest a Will?

A Will Contest begins when an interested party has their Will Contest Lawyer draft a petition spelling out the Will Contests’ basis, which is filed in the appropriate court.

How long do you have to Contest a Will?

Each state has a statute of limitations period. Contact our Will Contest Lawyer, let us know in which jurisdiction the Will falls, and we can tell you how long you have to contest the Will.

Can I Contest a Will after Probate?

If the statute of limitations period has not passed, you can challenge a Will after it has been probated.

What are the grounds for a Will Contest?

Grounds for a Will Contest include Undue Influence, Duress or Coercion, Fraud, Forgery, Lack of Testamentary Capacity, Superseded Will and Improper Will Execution.

How long does a Will Challenge Take?

A Will Challenge that does not settle and goes to trial can take up to two years.

Who pays for Contesting a Will?

The person contesting the Will pays his bill, and the person defending the Will pays her bill. Typically, the estate does not pay any portion of the contest expense.

What is required to Contest a Will?

The contestant must be an interested person, pay the costs involved and prove to the judge that the Will is not valid because of Undue Influence, Duress or Coercion, Fraud, Forgery, Lack of Testamentary Capacity, Superseded Will or Improper Will Execution.

What type of Lawyer do I need to Contest a Will?

When searching for an attorney experienced in Will Contests, use the search terms Estate Litigation Lawyer or a Will Contest Lawyer.

Can you Contest a Will before Probate?

Before probate, have your Will Contest Lawyer file a Caveat. This gives you the chance to review the Will before it is accepted into Probate.

Do I need a Will Contest Attorney?

If you need brain surgery, you go to a brain surgeon, not a general practitioner. Sure a general practitioner can perform brain surgery but expect a messy result. The same holds true for a Will Contest Attorney. Will Contest cases are highly technical. It takes years of practice in this specific area to accumulate enough experience and knowledge to both attack and defend a Will in a Will Contest.

A successful Will Challenge Attorney requires not only a litigator’s skills, but also an in-depth knowledge of the specific court overseeing the Will Contest as well as Probate, Estate Planning and the interpretation of Wills and Trusts. Like brain surgery, these are skills impossible to pick up quickly. Only a experienced Will Contest Lawyer should be trusted to handle a Will Contest.

Does a Real Will Challenge Lawyer Save You Money?

A Will Challenge Lawyer will likely reduce the estate litigation cost. By being familiar with the process and the court system, a Will Challenge Lawyer can more quickly identify and address issues. Experience with discovery methods and time-taught knowledge of what steps are usually successful helps reach conclusions more quickly. In short, a Will Contest Lawyer saves you money.

Reasonable Prices | Years of Experience | We Stand With You and We Fight For You

If you have any questions about a Will Contest or any other estate law topics please contact us to schedule a free consultation.

Our firm has managed successful Will Challenges, as well as successfully defending valid Wills from wrongful Will Challenges, throughout Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Florida. Though headquartered in Philadelphia, our particular set of litigation skills are in demand near and far. Our litigation team is solely focused on estate matters. Few lawyers focus their entire practice on Estate Litigation, so when someone wants an experienced Will Contest Attorney to challenge a Will or defend a Will, they turn to us.

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