Challenging a Beneficiary in a Will or Estate

To challenge the beneficiary designation in a will, you must have standing. That is, you have something to gain from the outcome of the case. If you have standing you can challenge the designation within 6 months after the will is filed in probate court.

Usually, challengers include:

  • Spouses.
  • Ex-spouses.
  • Family members who are excluded from the will.
  • Business partners of the deceased.

How a Beneficiary Designation is Challenged

There are different ways that the beneficiary of a will can be challenged. This is done by challenging the validity of the will itself with a qualified Chicago estate planning lawyer. Some common challenges to a will or beneficiary designation include:

Forgery (or related fraud)– Every will must meet the legal requirements to be a valid will. Even if the will isn’t forged, it still may not be executed or witnessed properly. Certainly, there may be times when a signature does not look legitimate, or when terms seem to be suspiciously added or deleted after the will was signed.

No Capacity – The person making the will must know what he or she was deciding. Often, people who:

  • Are older.
  • Determined not to be of sound mind.
  • May have disability or disease.

May not have the capacity necessary to legally designate a beneficiary, or execute or alter the will. An example would be someone who alters his or her will, at a time when he or she was stricken with a crippling disease and excludes a close family member from the will.

Coercion (or Undue Influence)– This is often intertwined with capacity. People coerce or influence those who are older, or too infirm to make their own decisions. These can be complex factual questions that take extensive discovery in court, which a Chicago estate planning lawyer can handle for you. However, even in perfectly healthy people, threats or influence from advisors can coerce someone to alter a will.

Mistake – Although this is a long shot, sometimes it can be argued that someone mistakenly left out a beneficiary, in favor of another one.

Imagine someone who is divorced from his wife, but who never removes her as a beneficiary. His new wife could potentially challenge the beneficiary designation. This would be so if she alleges that her husband failed to change the beneficiary which was a mistake. Rather, the deceased’s wishes were for the new wife to be the beneficiary.

Beneficiary Designations Outside a Will

Remember that beneficiary designations outside a will such as those made on bank accounts, retirement accounts, or IRAs, take priority over provisions of a will that may conflict with those designations. Many people change wills, but don’t change beneficiary designations.

Alternatively, they may have capacity when they alter a will, but not when they change a beneficiary outside the will. If you want to alter your will, or beneficiaries, a Chicago estate planning lawyer can help you determine what needs to be changed, outside of the standard estate documents.

For an evaluation of the likelihood of success in contesting a beneficiary in your own case, please call the Arlington Heights contested trust lawyers at Orlowsky & Wilson, Ltd. at 847-325-5559 today.

Updated as of July 2019
  • Email
  • Mailing Address
    250 Parkway Dr. Lincolnshire, IL 60069
  • One Northfield Plaza 560 W Frontage Rd STE 300 Northfield, IL 60093
  • 115 S LaSalle St STE 2600, Chicago, IL 60603

Quick Contact