How to Contest a Will

Drafting a will with clear disposition terms and avoiding overly complex provisions may help minimize the potential for a will contest. However, even the most careful drafting may result in a contest by an individual named in the will, or one of your heirs at law. For example, in Fort Wayne, Indiana as well as in most other states, heirs at law are children, grandchildren and spouses whether named in the will or not.

If you are reading this because you are contemplating filing a will contest, it is most important to be aware of the narrow time limits in which you are allowed to make a challenge. In some jurisdictions, the time limit is as few as three months after a court order is entered to probate the will. The rules governing time limits are laden with exceptions and details that make it difficult to determine, in any given situation, when precisely the time to file a contest has expired. Therefore, you should consult with an experienced estate planning attorney who can assist you in understanding your rights and limitations.

Will contests are one of the most complicated areas of estate planning. Often, the time limit begins to run from the date the will is filed with a probate court. Once the order is entered probating the will it is considered legally filed and contests must be filed within the specified time window. Contests may also be raised before a will is probated. Different requirements and procedures must be followed if you intend to contest a will before the probate clock begins running.

To make matters more complex, a different statute of limitations applies to the time period for filing a will. In Indiana, for example, a will must be filed within three years of the testator’s date of death. If no will is filed within this period, the deceased will be considered to have died intestate, which means without a will. When there is no will, a statute determines to whom the deceased’s property is distributed. This is known as intestate succession.

Anyone interested in filing a will needs to be aware of the specific time limitations that are triggered by the decedent’s death, or if contesting a will, the date of the court’s order to probate. We are experienced estate planning attorneys who can help you understand and address these and other related laws governing the complex area of will contests.