Losing a loved one is a stressful situation; this time is made even more stressful when those left behind are faced with the disposition of the estate. If you feel that your loved one passed away and left behind an estate with disposition instructions that were not in keeping with how the estate should be divided, there are three things you can do to contest the will and get the estate sent through probate.
Ensure You Have Grounds to Contest
First, you need to make sure you have a valid legal reason to contest the will. The law does not allow for disgruntled family members or friends to contest a will simply because they want more money or feel someone else got more than their fair share. If you feel that the testator signed the will under duress or was not of sound mind and body at the time the will was signed, this can be grounds to contest the will. If the will was not properly witnessed or a discovery was made of documents that are legally valid and contradictory to the terms of the will, you may also contest the will. If you are unsure whether you have grounds to challenge the will, seek the advice of a qualified probate attorney to determine if you have a claim under the laws of your state.
Contact an Attorney
If you do have legal grounds to contest the will, you need to contact a probate attorney from a company like Leon J Teichner & Associates, P.C. immediately. Each state has established laws that limit the amount of time you have to assert a claim; these laws are called statutes of limitations. You can have as little as a year in some states to file documents with the court to contest a will. The laws on this issue can be very murky and difficult to decipher, so your attorney can give you the best advice based on your situation and your location.
File Your Claim with the Court
Your attorney will draft the proper paperwork to assert your claim with the local probate court. Once this happens, all heirs to the estate will be notified and the court will take over. The estate will be reopened, all interested parties will be allowed to submit statements and supporting information, and the court will make a final decision on the disposition of the assets. This can be a lengthy and expensive process, so it is important to weigh the cost in time and money against the reward that could come from successfully contesting the will before asserting a claim.