When an estate plan is challenged, someone contests that they do not believe that the plan should be honored as it has been written. Maybe they think that the will was fraudulent. Perhaps they think that it was only created the way it was because of undue influence. Maybe they have uncovered other estate planning documents that they claim are more recent.
While there are many potential reasons for someone to challenge a will, you may find yourself wondering who is allowed to do so. This is certainly not a tactic that just anyone can use, so who has the legal standing to potentially accomplish this feat successfully?
They must have something at stake
A lot of people can challenge a will or estate plan, but they do need to show that they have something to lose or gain as a result of that plan. For instance, direct heirs or a spouse, who clearly expected to inherit, automatically have a stake in an estate plan. If someone has been disinherited and they believe it was done fraudulently, they would have grounds to challenge. This doesn’t mean that they would win the challenge, as they may have been legally disinherited, but they could lawfully start that process.
Outside of family members, standing usually extends to an individual or entity that is financially tied to the estate. This could be a creditor who is trying to seek to get their debts paid, for instance. It could also be someone who typically would not have expected to inherit – like a family friend – but who was then added to a previous version of the estate plan and removed at a later date. This person may claim that the individual did want to leave them something but that other heirs decided to remove them from the estate plan to keep those assets within the family, for example.
What steps need to be taken?
A challenge to an estate plan can be very complex and the court will have to determine how to proceed. Those involved with the estate need to know what legal steps to take to seek a proper ruling.