With the help of a trusted attorney, it is possible to challenge a will after someone has passed away. And while it’s natural to want to challenge a will if you believe it or the conditions under which it was written are problematic, you may be surprised to know challenging a will can actually leave you with nothing at all. Less than nothing, that is, because of the lost time and resources you can spend calling it into question.
For that reason, it’s important to carefully consider not only whether you want to challenge a will, but also whether you may have a well-founded reason to do so. Your attorney can help you determine next steps, but here’s a brief overview of some reasons you may wish to challenge a will.
Reasons to challenge and why challenging a will may leave you empty-handed
Reasons you may want to challenge a will include:
- If you believe the person who wrote the will had a lack of capacity, or testamentary capacity, (often known as “being of sound mind”) to do so.
- If you believe the will was made under undue influence and not of free choice, or that the will was made under suspect conditions like fraud or mistakes.
- If you believe the will does not meet requirements by law (such as lacking witness signatures).
When you are ready to challenge a will, you will need to prove that there are problems with the will or the situation under which it was written.
The caveat to challenging a will: the no-contest clause
Some wills contain what’s known as a no-contest clause, often included in a will to reduce the risk of it being challenged by someone who is displeased with their inheritance. Under a no-contest clause, anyone who challenges a will may risk forfeiting anything that they are due to receive under the terms of the will. While it may deter some from pursuing legal action to challenge a will, in many cases, clients who have good grounds for challenging a will—like those previously mentioned—typically are undeterred by a no-contest clause.
Of course, it’s essential to also consider the time and resources required of anyone who wishes to challenge a will, including legal fees you will incur.
Don’t be left empty-handed; get expert advice when challenging a will
Finding the right lawyer to assist and advise you as you consider whether to challenge a will is essential. Your attorney can advise you on whether you have grounds for challenging a will and can help you understand the terms of the will, including any no-contest clause within it. In the end, you will have the peace of mind that comes with knowing you have an expert on your side who is working to protect your best interests.
By David Pierce, La Crosse Estate Planning Attorney. For an estate planning lawyer in La Crosse, call him at 608-784-5678.