How Contesting a Will Works
If you’re questioning the legitimacy of a will, you can contest it. However, before undergoing this legal process, there are some things you need to know.
For some background, wills are contested in Orphans’ Court, which is Maryland’s state probate court. When a will is being contested in court, the process is referred to as a caveat proceeding. The court must determine, based on the facts, whether the will in question is valid.
Who Has the Right to Contest a Will?
There are limitations on who has the grounds to contest a will. The requirement in Maryland is that the person contesting the will has to be “interested in the estate.” Interested parties fall into one of two categories:
- The party is a named beneficiary in the will.
- The party would have lawfully inherited from the decedent if there had been no will. This category can apply to spouses, children, and parents. It can also apply to creditors who have specific types of claims.
Though determining who can contest wills under Maryland state law is relatively straightforward, the legalities of the contestation process are complex and often requires the experience of an estate lawyer, especially if there are significant assets at stake.
Grounds to Contest a Will in Maryland
It can be disappointing to find out that a loved one didn’t bequeath everything you’d hoped for, and the devastation can multiply when combined with the grief of losing a loved one. Though being disappointed in the outcome of a will isn’t grounds to contest it, several other circumstances could lead to a contestable will:
- Fraud: If you believe that the will has been forged, you can contest it in court. An alternative scenario is that someone convinced the person to sign a will, thinking that they were signing another document.
- Undue influence: If someone has exerted pressure, force, or other types of manipulation to influence the contents of the will, it can be challenged.
- Legally invalid: For a will to be valid, it must fulfill many requirements. For example, it must be in writing and signed by the principal party (the testator) or a representative. The testator has to be of legal age and deemed competent when the will is signed. It also requires two witnesses.
If any single one of these conditions is not met, the will can be challenged for validity.
- Multiple versions: It’s not unusual for someone to change their will during their lifetime. If there’s a newer will that the court hasn’t seen, you can argue that the one in their possession is not valid.
Contact our Estate Planning Attorneys to Contest a Will
In Maryland, the statute of limitations for contesting a will is a mere six months. This means that from the day the estate’s personal representative is appointed, the clock starts ticking. If you wait too long, you’ll lose your ability to contest a will.
We also work with personal representatives who have been presented with challenges to wills and need to defend their legitimacy.
Contact the attorneys at Ralph W. Powers Jr., P.C. to discuss the next steps.