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Who can challenge a will?

While creating or updating your estate plan, it may be worthwhile to take a minute to consider who might step forward to challenge your will after you die. A will challenge is probably unlikely, but it is never impossible that someone will try to get your will tossed out in probate court, due to some complaint.

It should come as a relief to our readers that not just anyone on Earth can challenge a will. Though the laws differ from state to state, in general only three categories of people have the legal standing to file a challenge: beneficiaries of the decedent’s prior will, beneficiaries of a subsequent will, and those who would be heirs if the decedent died intestate (without a valid will).

A beneficiary is someone who is named in the will, while an heir is someone who would receive a portion of the estate under intestate law. Thus, a person can only challenge a will if they would receive a share of the estate if that will is invalidated. They are “interested persons” in the matter, as are creditors or other parties with a property right or claim against the estate.

This means that a beneficiary cannot challenge a will just because he or she thinks he or she deserves more. Nor can a person not named in the will intervene on a third party’s behalf in most cases.

Ultimately, it is up to the testator to decide what should happen to his or her assets after he or she dies. Still, nobody wants there to be a lengthy, difficult probate over his or her estate, so the advice of an estate planning attorney can be invaluable.

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