If you think you’ve encountered a situation where the will of a loved one needs to be contested, there are a few key things you need to consider. Creating a will is important to avoid dying intestate, but the creation of a will does not guarantee that it will not be contested. Contesting a will can be an in-depth legal process that takes a great deal of time and effort, so ensuring that moving forward with a contest is a viable route can save a lot of stress in the long run.
Make Sure You Have a Valid Reason
Contesting a will is only a viable option if you have valid, concrete grounds to stand on. Unfortunately, simply feeling that you were written out of a will unfairly – or that you were not given what you deserved – is not a sufficient reason to legally contest a will. However, some very valid reasons to begin the process are:
- The will did not meet the requirements to be considered valid (i.e. the will was handwritten, was not signed, or was not witnessed or notarized)
- The will was subject to undue influence
- There was fraud that affected the details or assets of the will
- Suspected forgery
- Suspected mental incapacity of the writer of the will (i.e. your parent was not mentally stable later in life and you’ve discovered their will was changed during this time period)
- Changes made to the will by the Power of Attorney that directly benefited him or her
Determine if You Are Within the Time Frame to Contest
The ideal time to contest a will is as soon as possible. In most states, the timeline for contesting a will is one year from the person’s passing. In Virginia, timelines can be anywhere from six months to two years depending on the individual situation. Consult with a legal professional in Virginia to determine if you are still within the timeframe to be able to contest a will.
Weigh the Cost Versus Gain
Depending on the size of the estate and the complexity of the will, you’ll want to determine if the efforts you’ll be putting forth to contest it will be worth it if you are successful. In some cases – though unfortunate – it does not always make sense to enter the process of contesting if the potential return does not outweigh the legal costs – not to mention your time and energy.
Consult a Legal Professional
If you’ve weighed your options and feel you have viable grounds to contest a loved one’s will, your first step is to enlist the help of a legal professional in your area to begin the process. As we mentioned before, time is of the essence, so you’ll want to obtain legal counsel as soon as possible.
If you are looking to contest a will in Virginia, our team at Hale Ball has decades of experience in navigating the complexity of wills, trusts, and estates. Reach out today for a consultation to determine if contesting is the right path for you.