How Do I Challenge a Will?
Jacksonville Estate Law Firm Serving, Duval, Clay, Nassau, St. Johns, Flagler and Baker Counties
Not everyone can challenge a will. For instance, you cannot challenge your friend or cousin’s will just because you believe the estate would be better off in the hands of someone else. In addition, you cannot contest a will just because you do not believe you received a fair share.
According to basic probate laws, only “interested persons” may challenge a will – and even still only for valid legal reasons. The Probate Code identifies “interested persons” to include children, heirs, devisees, spouses, creditors, or any others having a property right, or claim against, the estate being administered. Therefore, those who may challenge a will generally fall into one of three main categories: (1) beneficiaries of a prior will, (2) beneficiaries of a subsequent will, and (3) intestate heirs.
Who Has Standing to Challenge a Will?
While state laws vary from state to state, all states have laws that must be met before a will contest may take place. The first requirement is “standing”. A person who has “standing” to challenge a will is typically someone who is named in the will (a beneficiary) or someone who is not the beneficiary, but who would inherit (or lose) under the will if the will was deemed invalid. Standing is the first requirement to overcome to contest a will. You must either show that you were named in the will (or should have been), or show that you would have received something of value (typically money) if the person had died without a will.
What is a Beneficiary?
Beneficiaries are those who are named in a will and can include your spouse, children, grandchildren, or other relatives, but can also include friends, charitable organization (like churches, synagogues, and universities), charities, and even pets. Beneficiaries have standing to challenge a will, whether or not they are relatives of the deceased.
What Does Testate Mean?
Testate simply means that someone made a valid will before they died or a person who has died leaving a will.
What Does Intestate Mean?
Intestate is the opposite of testate. It means that someone did not have a will before they died or a person who has died without having made a will.
Who are Considered Heirs?
Heirs have standing to challenge a will because if a testator dies without having a will (Intestate), heirs would receive a share of the estate through the laws of intestate. Heirs are the most commonly named beneficiaries to a will. Heirs are relatives who inherit under a will when a decedent dies “intestate”, or without a will. This typically includes spouses, children, parents, grandparents, and siblings. Heirs can challenge a will if they believe there were omitted or left with a disproportionate share in the will.
Can a Minor Inherit?
Under some laws, minors who would like to challenge a will may do so, but only after they reach the age of majority (typically age 18). This is because minors are not legally able to initiate legal proceedings, except under the guidelines of an executor or court representative.
Have an Attorney Evaluate Your Will-Related Legal Needs
Sometimes it’s not so simple determining who has standing or is otherwise eligible to challenge a will. An attorney can help you make this determination and also plan a legal strategy to help secure your interests. Call Daniel M. Copeland, Attorney at Law, P.A. We are here to help you. Call 904.482-0616 today.