It is a scenario that is unfortunately all too common: A loved one dies, and before the funeral arrangements are even complete, family members are arguing about who gets what. This family tension can add significant stress to an already painful situation. The fighting may become so contentious that someone decides to challenge the specifics of the will in court.
Who can challenge a will?
While it is true that someone can contest a will, there are some limitations. First, wills can only be challenged by someone with legal standing (a legal right) to do so. This includes named beneficiaries, who are the people or entities (such as a charitable organization) who are specifically mentioned in the will.
It may also include anyone who should have been named in the will and was not. For example, a child, spouse or others such as parents, grandparents and siblings if the deceased was not married and did not have children.
When can someone challenge a will?
Next, the person or people who are challenging the will must have a valid reason to do so. Such situations may include the following:
- There are multiple wills that contradict each other.
- The directions contained in the will are confusing or unclear
- The will wasn’t created appropriately, e.g., there were no witnesses when it was signed, or they were not qualified to be a witness
- Fraud, such as someone forcing the deceased to change their will
There are other circumstances that may warrant challenging a family member’s will too. No matter the situation, intense emotions are often involved. Due to the complexity of will contests, issues of probate and other end of life matters, legal counsel can help.