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Will Contest

Each of our Will Challenge Attorneys regularly represents clients in defending and challenging the validity of wills and trusts. Typically, these disputes involve a challenge or contest of 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 simply and directly. We work with clients to analyze the case’s strengths and weaknesses and arrive at a plan of attack or defense in your best interest.

What is a Will Contest or a Will Challenge?

The Will Contest Lawyer helps you focus on the key issues. 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; failure to follow these standards can lead to the case’s dismissal. It is vital to craft and file the initial Will Challenge Petition correctly. If filed incorrectly, crucial issues might be later barred. For more detailed information, see my page “Will Contests for the Civilian Non-Lawyer.” 

What is the basis of a Will Challenge?

Claiming that a Will does not reflect the deceased’s intent is insufficient. 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  • Superseded Will – If you discover a more recently executed Will before the Statute of Limitations Period lapses, you can have your Estate Litigation Attorney submit the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:

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 invalidate a Will, 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 Will Contest Lawyer.

Can you Contest a Will before Probate?

Before Probate, have your Will Contest Lawyer file a Caveat. Quick action allows you to review the Will before its acceptance into Probate.

What Does Contest Mean in a Will?

A Will Contest is a court proceeding where interested parties dispute the validity of a Will presented as being valid by one party.

How Hard is it to Contest a Will in Pennsylvania?

An interested party cannot contest a Will just because they don’t like what it says.  You must present a proper basis for the challenge. Then, produce evidence.  A Will Contest is a lengthy legal process best managed by an experienced estate litigation attorney.

How long do you have in Pennsylvania to Contest a Will?

You have one year after the will has been accepted to Probate to contest the Will in Pennsylvania.

Can my Dad's Girlfriend Contest His Will?

Only Interested Parties can Contest a Will. This means the challenger must demonstrate that the Will being challenged has diminished their inheritance.  So, if the Will presented gives the girlfriend nothing, but the prior Will does give her a gift, then she can challenge. But, if she was not included in prior Wills, then a girl or boyfriend has no power to challenge a will.

What Does It Mean to Contest an Inheritance?

When someone says they wish to Contest an Inheritance, they usually mean they wish to Contest a Will.  But, they may refer to Challenging a beneficiary designation.  For example, you may believe that your father’s IRA beneficiary designation was changed by forgery.  If you were the beneficiary before the forgery, you have the right to challenge.

What Are the Reasons to Contest a Will?

Pennsylvania Law allows only certain reasons to challenge a will. For example, Duress, Undue Influence, Fraud, and Forgery.

What are the Rules for Wills in PA?

PA law requires that you be 18 years old, be of sound mind, and sign the Will at its end.  PA is the only state that does not require witnesses.  But, if you have witnesses, filing the Will at your death is much easier.

Do Wills Have to be Filed with the Court in Pennsylvania?

Some states allow you to file a WIll before your death, but not Pennsylvania.  You cannot file a Will until death. Once a person dies, the Will and death certificate is filed with the Register of Wills, not a court.  If an estate has no assets, then there is no need to file the Will.

Does a Will Expire in PA?

There is no end date for a Will in Pennsylvania.  For example, if you sign a will at age 18 and make no other Will until your death at age 90, then the Will you made at age 18 is valid.

How Long Does it Take to Settle an Estate Without a Will in Pennsylvania?

Creditors may make valid claims for one year from the date of an estate is opened with the Register of Wills and advertised. Often within this year, all the probate matters can be completed. This typically includes the Inheritance Tax Return, selling assets, and preparing a settlement agreement to release the executor from liability.

Can you Elect Against a Will in Pennsylvania?

Pennsylvania law says you cannot disinherit your spouse without their consent. You don’t have to mention your spouse in your Will, but they have the chance to claim a share of the estate. Your spouse can waive this right in a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement.

What is an Example of Undue Influence?

Father in the hospital dying from terminal cancer.  While ill and drugged, his girlfriend pressures him, resulting in her receiving a larger share of his estate.  Undue Influence happens most often when a person’s ability to defend their own wishes has been diminished by age or illness.

Should I Leave Someone a Dollar in My Will?

No. The incorrect thought is that by leaving someone a dollar, you have not disinherited a person, and they cannot challenge the will.  This is not true. Further, giving them a dollar gives them the right to receive information about the estate as an heir. Even more irritating is when such a person refuses to accept the dollar leaving the executor with an open estate.

What are no Contest Clauses in a Will?

A No-Contest clause is a provision in a Will stating that a beneficiary will forfeit their inheritance should they Challange a Will. Many states, such as Pennsylvania, do not honor such clauses.  Further, if you exclude someone from your Will, then having a No-Contest clause is meaningless; they are already excluded, so there is nothing to forfeit by challenging the Will.

Can My Dad Leave Me Out of His Will?

Pennsylvania and New Jersey do not require you to leave anything to your children. So, your dad can leave you out of his will.

Can my Estranged Son Contest my Will?

Yes. Any heir who would inherit from you if you had no Will can challenge your Will.  Even if you have been estranged for many decades, a child can Challange your Will. Careful planning with your Estate Planning Lawyer can help prevent an estranged child from trying to Challenge your Will.

Do I Need to Have My Will Notarized in Pennsylvania?

.No. A Will does not need to be notarized to be valid in Pennsylvania. However, properly witnessing and notarizing your Will makes the Probate process easier.

Can an Executor Sell Land Without all Beneficiaries Approving in PA?

Yes. But, a Beneficiary can later raise questions about the sale in court, so obtaining approval is the best option.

How Long Do I Have to Contest a Will in Pennsylvania?

One year from the Will being accepted to Probate. But, as in most things, sooner is better than later.  If the Executor can access funds and spends them before your challenge, your later victory might be hollow.

Can My Mother Leave Me out of Her Will?

A parent has no legal obligation to leave anything to their children in their will.  Your mother may exclude you for any reason at all.

Can I Contest the Will of My Estranged Parent?

Yes. As a child, you are an intestate heir, with the ability to challenge any Will giving you less than you would inherit had there been no Will.

Can My Mom's Landlord Challeng Her Will?

No. As a creditor, the landlord could file a claim against the estate for unpaid rent, but without more, the landlord has no standing to challenge the Will.

Where Does Evidence Come From in a Will Contest?

Will Contest Evidence is most often secured from the Testimony of doctors, friends, witnesses, and family. Also, medical records, bank records, and expert witnesses.

Can I Contest the Will of My Estranged Parent?

Yes. As a child, you are an intestate heir, with the ability to challenge any Will giving you less than you would inherit had there been no Will.

Will Contest lawyer Will Challenge lawyer

Will Contest Attorney, Glen Ridenour.

Do I need an Attorney?

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

A successful Will Challenge Attorney requires not only a litigator’s skills but also 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. Trust only an experienced Will Contest Lawyer 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. A Will Challenge Lawyer can more quickly identify and address issues by being familiar with the process and the court system. Experience with discovery methods and time-taught knowledge of what steps are usually successful help 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 get in touch with us to schedule a free consultation.

Our firm has managed successful Will Challenges and successfully defended 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 focuses 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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