iStock_000001204130XSmall-ConfrontationA will contest is a proceeding to determine the legal status of a written instrument.  Since this special proceeding was unknown to the English common law from which our legal system arose, the extent and nature of the contest and a contestant’s rights exist only to the extent provided by legal statutes.  Probate attorneys can assist a party either trying to invalidate or preserve the will as written.

To qualify as an ”interested person” authorized to file a contest, a contestant must have a monetary right in or monetary claim against the decedent’s estate that may be affected by the probate proceeding.  Generally, “interested persons” fall into one of two categories.  The first category of persons consists of the decedent’s heirs who, as the result of a successful will contest, would be entitled to distribution of the decedent’s estate under the laws of intestate succession. The second category consists of persons who allege that they are the beneficiaries under a different will that the decedent executed either before or after executing the will offered for probate.

After a will is admitted to probate, standing (the right) to contest it is further limited. In that case, in addition to being an interested person, the contestant must not have been a party to a prior contest of the probated will or have had “actual notice” (knowledge of interest and right to contest as well as notice of the contest) of a prior will contest in time to have joined it.