What Are The Legal Grounds To Contest A Will In Illinois?
When someone close to us passes away and we are named in his or her estate, we expect their last will and testament to be made while in sound mind and body. However, sometimes beneficiaries are not granted all the assets of an estate they would have otherwise received due to some sort of flaw in the will’s execution.
Individuals in these situations have the legal right to challenge the validity of the will in probate court in front of a jury on several legal grounds. Interested parties seeking to contest wills in probate should be aware there are deadlines and legal standards that must be met in order to secure a successful resolution to their action.
Who can contest a will?
In Illinois, any party that would be adversely affected by the execution of a will may file a petition contesting the estate within six months of its admission into probate court. Parties affected by the will’s execution may include beneficiaries named (or not) in the will, parties named in previous wills who would stand to gain by the latest will being invalidated, and heirs who would otherwise inherit the bulk of the estate without the presence of a will.
Proving standing to contest a will is the first step to successfully contesting the estate. Parties unable to show a direct, financial, and existing interest in the estate may have their claims dismissed by courts without ever having the opportunity to present their case to a jury.
Wills may be held invalid if some sort of undue influence was directly tied to the execution of the will. Undue influence is understood to be a force that prevents the testator from exercising his or her own rights in crafting the will.
Lack of testamentary capacity
Illinois courts define lack of testamentary capacity as the absence of “mental ability to know and remember… the natural objects of [one’s] bounty, to comprehend the kind and character of [one’s] property, and to make disposition of the property according to some plan formed in [one’s] mind.” Simply put, testators must be of sound mind and body when executing the will in order for it to be found valid.
Fraud or forgery
Alterations or substitutions to an executed will may constitute an instance of fraud that may invalidate a will. Parties may may prove fraud or forgery of a will by demonstrating witnesses to the will’s execution were untrustworthy, the testator was not at the place or time the will was executed, or the will was not signed in the testator’s handwriting.
Evanston contested estate attorneys
If you believe you were unfairly excluded from a will or were denied the full extent of assets you were due from an estate, contact the experienced Evanston contested will attorneys of Orlowsky & Wilson, Ltd. for a consultation about your case. Our attorneys serve clients throughout Evanston, Northbrook, Skokie, Glenview, Glencoe, and Highland Park.