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What is a will contest?

A will is an important consideration for an estate planner to make and for the family of the estate planner. It can provide peace of mind for both parties. Both estate planners and families, however, may wonder what a will contest is and how it could potential impact them down the line. A will contest generally refers to when a will is being challenged. There are several grounds upon which a will may be challenged and it is helpful to be familiar with them.

Most wills successfully proceed through the probate process. Because a will is viewed as the voice of the estate planner, courts are reluctant to interfere. There are, however, requirements for a will to be valid, and if the requirements are not met, or some other circumstance exists, the will may be contested. It may be possible to challenge a will based on a claim that the estate planner lacked capacity to write or execute the will or that some type of undue influence was asserted or duress was present when the estate planner was writing or executing the will.

Additional circumstances that might lead to a will challenge include if fraud is asserted during the writing or executing the will, the will is lacking provisions required by state law or the will was not executed properly concerning witnesses or signatures. Different parties, including spouses, may wish to challenge a will. If a will is successfully contested, it may be voided entirely or parts of it may be voided. In some circumstances, a prior version of a will or provision may be reinstated.

A valid will is an important part of an effective estate plan for estate planners and their families to know that property will be disposed of according to the estate planner's wishes and the expectations of beneficiaries. To avoid what can be contentious and costly will contests, it is helpful to understand the elements of a valid will but also to be prepared concerning how to challenge a will if necessary.

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