Losing a loved one can be difficult to accept, even under the best of circumstances. Concern that a relative’s estate is not valid, or a representation of that individual’s true feelings can make an already emotional period even more troubling. Fortunately, a decedent’s heirs need not accept the terms of a fraudulent or coerced will but can contest the estate in court. If you believe your own loved one’s estate was made under duress, was fraudulently amended, or is otherwise defective, you should contact Alan G. Orlowsky to evaluate the estate and advise you as to your legal options.
The Probate Process
In Illinois, when a person dies, they leave behind an estate consisting of all their assets and property. Typically, these estates are required to go through a legal process known as probate, which begins when a person’s executor files an original copy of the decedent’s will with the court. At this point, a probate judge will:
● Authenticate the will in question;
● Identify and locate all an estate’s assets;
● Give creditors the chance to file claims against the estate; and
● Ensure all estate taxes are paid.
At this time, any potential heirs or beneficiaries who believe a will is not valid will be given the opportunity to come forward and present their concerns to the court.
The Process of Contesting a Will
A will contest can only be filed by a few specific individuals, namely those who have the legal right to initiate an action, which includes:
● Beneficiaries under the submitted will;
● Legal heirs of the estate;
● Creditors of the estate.
Even if a person falls under one of these categories, he/she will only be able to contest a will if there is evidence that:
● The testator was pressured into signing the current will;
● The testator did not have the requisite mental capacity to execute a legally binding will;
● The will is the result of forgery or fraud;
● The will admitted to probate was legally revoked before the decedent’s death; or
● The will was not properly executed.
Once the person who has decided to contest a will has filed the proper legal documents with the probate court, both sides – including the plaintiff and the will’s executor, will be given the opportunity to share information and exchange evidence that will be used if the case goes to trial. Eventually, if the parties are unable to settle the disagreement through negotiation or mediation, a court will be tasked with determining whether a will is valid. If it is found to be so, probate proceedings will continue, and the decedent’s assets will be distributed in accordance with the document’s terms. On the other hand, if the will is deemed invalid, a court will look for the existence of another will for direction and if none is forthcoming, will begin the process of distributing the decedent’s assets based on the state’s laws of intestacy.
Contact Our Office Today
If you have questions or concerns about contesting a will in Illinois, please contact the experienced Chicagoland contested estates lawyers at Orlowsky & Wilson, Ltd. Attorneys at Law by calling 847-325-5559 to schedule an appointment today.