Who has the right to challenge a will?

| Feb 26, 2020 | Firm News

Creating a strong will and estate plan is one of the most effective ways to ensure that your legacy and property pass on to the people and organizations that matter to you. Unfortunately, the process of executing a person’s wishes after they pass away can cause a great deal of tension. Often, tensions arise among heirs and beneficiaries, particularly when one party or another disagrees with the decedent’s wishes.

A person who challenges a will must typically have the legal grounds to do so. This depends on the relationship between a person challenging a will and the will’s creator, was well as several other factors. If you believe that one or more of your heirs or beneficiaries may challenge your will, now is the time to examine your will and estate plan. With careful attention and strong legal tools, you can reduce the likelihood of a successful challenge to your wishes, ensuring that your legacy passes on as intended.

Who has standing?

In order for a person to challenge a will, they must have proper standing. Standing applies to several different groups, including:

  • Individuals named in a will
  • Individuals not named in a will, who may receive distribution if a will is invalid
  • Beneficiaries named in a prior or subsequent will

Each state maintains their own laws that govern who does and does not receive standing, so it is always important to make sure that you use strong legal resources and guidance based in the proper state, as you need them.

Using no-contest clauses

No-contest clauses are a useful tool for individuals who anticipate conflicts in their estate distribution. A no-contest clause states that a beneficiary must either accept the terms that apply to them in a will, or potentially receive no distribution at all. If an individual challenges a will against a no-contest clause and loses their challenge, they forfeit their distribution. These are often referred to as “all-or-nothing” clauses, because they force anyone considering a challenge to assume much more risk if they mount a challenge.

Your own will and estate plan should reflect your values and your priorities, which may not reflect the expectations of your family members or the community around you. As you review your will and estate planning documents, be sure to consider how your wishes may cause conflicts between your heirs and beneficiaries, particularly if you choose to omit individuals who may expect to receive some form of benefit.

A strong will and estate plan can create lasting impact in the lives of those who are closest to you, as well as many others. Make sure to use the high-quality legal resources and guidance to keep your rights secure and protect the legacy you wish to leave behind.