A will is not always the final word when it comes to distributing the assets of an estate. There are a variety of important reasons why a will may need to be contested. These reasons may include problems with the creation of the will, unethical behavior by beneficiaries or mental issues suffered by the decedent at the time of the making of the will.
Let’s take a closer look at the process of challenging a will in the state of Connecticut, and how an experienced attorney can help you understand and meet the requirements.
The Process for Contesting a Will
The Connecticut Probate Court is the avenue where challenges to wills are made. While challenging a will successfully can be difficult in some cases, there are some scenarios under which it can occur.
Before this process can begin, however, certain conditions must be met. First, a challenge must occur within the prescribed time period. An estate is “open” when the executor, creditor or beneficiary of a person who has passed away files a petition in probate court. This must occur within 30 days of the decedent’s passing. Challenges must be made when the estate is open, and creditors or petitioners generally have 150 days to file a claim, although this can be extended.
If the estate has been closed, a petitioner must file a request with Connecticut Probate Court to reopen the case. For this to occur, there generally must be significant grounds for doing so. For example, if a beneficiary was coerced, they may file a request to reopen the estate.
Second, you must have legal standing to challenge a will. Courts will typically find that you have standing if you are a person who could inherit from the estate in the event the decedent died without a will (or died “intestate”). This typically includes spouses, children and can include more distant relatives such as aunts and uncles and cousins.
How to Successfully Challenge a Will
To successfully contest the will, the petitioner must provide facts that the will is invalid. This may include showing a will was not signed, witnessed or notarized according to Connecticut law, or was forged. It is also possible to invalidate a will by showing that a beneficiary exerted undue influence over the decedent to change the will in his or her favor. Finally, demonstrating that the decedent was not of sound mind when the most recent version of the will was filed is also a potential avenue for invalidating a will.
Finding the Right Attorney
The process of challenging a will can be highly complex and time-consuming and may require the use of experts to prove that a will was improperly created or that the decedent was of unsound mind at the time of its making.
For this reason, it is imperative to work with an attorney who has deep experience with Connecticut probate law. The right attorney can help ensure that you navigate this often tricky process successfully.