During the process of probate, someone may contest the validity of a will. These disputes take time to deal with and may be made in good faith or not. Sometimes, a loved one or a potential heir legitimately believes that the will being used is not legally valid. Other times, these disputes are made out of spite. Whatever the motivation behind a will contest, only specific people can contest a will in Midwest states, and they must prove that the will is invalid. There are also specific timeframes in which a will contest can be made.
Who Can Contest a Will?
To contest a will in most Midwest states, someone must have the standing to do so. This means that they have a legal financial interest in the will. This includes:
- Beneficiaries of the current or a prior will
- A family member, close friend, or business associate who believes that they were denied an inheritance
- A family member who would receive an inheritance through state intestate succession laws
- Creditors if the deceased still has debt
In certain situations, the executor or trustee, who has a fiduciary interest in the estate and will, can also object. Those with legal and financial interests are the only people allowed to object to the validity of the will. If anyone other than these people try to contest a will, the court will not allow it. This prevents the process from being complicated or slowed down by unnecessary or malicious will contests.
Grounds for Will Contests
Even if a person has the standing to contest a will, they must also have a reason. Being upset with the inheritance share that they received is not considered a legally valid reason. In Midwest states, the following are common grounds for a valid will contest:
- Improperly Signed: The will was not properly signed and witnessed. In several Midwest states, this means being signed by the creator of the will and witnessed by two reliable witnesses, who also sign it.
- Undue Influence: This refers to power or manipulation by one person over the creator of the will to benefit themselves or disenfranchise an intended beneficiary. This makes the will invalid.
- Fraud: An accusation of fraud may refer to several reasons that can make the will invalid. This includes a forged document or signature. It could also involve the use of duress, menace, or force to get the creator to sign a will. Additionally, it may refer to the creator signing a document that they believed was something else.
- Lack of Necessary Capacity: This claim suggests that the creator of the will did not have the mental capacity to understand their assets, estate, familial relationships, and the meaning of signing a legal document when they created and signed their will.
A valid claim may also include the existence of a more recent version of a will that the court was previously unaware of.
The person who claims that the will is invalid has the burden of proof to prove their claim. If their claim is successful, the most recent valid version of a will is used to distribute the estate instead. If the deceased had no prior will, the estate and assets are divided based on the state’s intestacy laws.
Statute of Limitations to File a Will Contest in Midwest States
The statute of limitations is a legal timeframe that a person has to file a legal claim. This statute is different depending on the state.
- Oklahoma: The statute of limitations is 3 months from the date the will enters probate or is denied entry to probate.
- Kansas: A will contest must be filed within 4 months from the date when the individual’s death was publicized to creditors. If all creditors are known, there is a 30 days window for contests.
- Illinois: The statute of limitations for will contests is 6 months from the date the will enters or is denied probate.
- Missouri: A will contest must be filed within 6 months of a will entering or being denied entry to probate or 6 months after notice was provided to creditors, whichever date is later.
- Nebraska: The statute of limitations is 3 years from the date of the individual’s death or within 1 year after distribution. If creditors were notified according to the correct procedures, they have 2 months from the first date of publication. These limitations are void if there is fraud.
Q: Who Can Contest a Will in the U.S.?
A: In most U.S. states, those who are legally allowed to contest a will must have valid legal interests in the estate. This includes:
- Current beneficiaries
- Beneficiaries of a prior will
- Family members or heirs
- Creditors if the deceased has debt
- Those with fiduciary interests
There must also be a legally valid reason to contest a will.
Q: Can a Child Contest a Will If They Are Excluded in Illinois?
A: In Illinois, much like other states, only those with a legal and financial interest in an estate can contest a will. A child can contest a will if they are excluded because, if the will is found to be invalid, the child would benefit from Illinois’s succession laws. There may also be a prior will where the child benefits. Both of these are considered legal interests.
Q: What Is the Time Limit to Contest a Will in Missouri?
A: In Missouri, the statute of limitations to file a will contest is either:
- 6 months from the date a will was accepted into or rejected from probate court
- 6 months from the date first notice of the individual’s death was provided to creditors
The later date of these two is when the 6-month limit begins.
Q: What Is a No-Contest Clause in a Trust?
A: A no-contest clause does not prevent an interested party from contesting a will or a trust. Instead, it prevents a person who contests the document from receiving their inheritance or otherwise limits their inheritance. A no-contest clause only works to discourage those who have something to lose by contesting the will or trust.
Protecting Your Will From Contests
If you are worried that family members or creditors may attempt to contest your will, it’s in your interests to create a strong and legal will. At Stange Law Firm, our attorneys can help you protect your will through several methods and prevent several avenues of a will contest. Contact our team today to see how we can protect your future.