Will Contests Between Family Members

The death of a loved one doesn’t always bring surviving family members closer together. In fact, it is not uncommon for someone’s death to actually drive the survivors apart. This is especially true in cases where a significant inheritance is at stake and one or more of a decedent’s loved ones wasn’t provided for. To avoid this, testators are strongly encouraged to comply with all of the procedural rules that are required when drafting a valid will or creating a trust. It’s also a good idea for testators to make their wishes clear by having frank discussions with their descendants about the plans for the distribution of their inheritance. If you are beginning the process of planning your own estate and want to ensure that your wishes are respected, you should consider speaking with an experienced contested estates attorney as soon as possible.

Grounds for Contesting a Will

Under Illinois law, a person can only contest a will for one of a few different reasons. For instance, a will is only considered valid if it is signed by the testator in the presence of two witnesses. If a testator fails to take this step, a person could contest the document’s validity. Will contests are also permitted if there is evidence that:

  • The testator was not 18 years old when the will was drafted;
  • The testator was not of sound mind when the will was executed and so lacked the capacity necessary to create a will;
  • The will was not recorded in writing; or
  • The testator drafted the will while being controlled by outside influences.

Even if there is evidence that a will was not entered into voluntarily or was not valid, a person can only contest it if he or she files a formal lawsuit within 90 days of the will being entered into probate.

Who Can Contest a Will?

Many will contests are filed by disinherited children or siblings. However, these are not the only individuals who can contest the validity of a will, as anyone who would be personally and financially affected by a will’s terms, if it were accepted “as is” by the court, has legal standing to contest a will. For instance, most will contests are filed by disinherited heirs-at-law, or those who are closely related to the decedent and would have received a share of the testator’s estate if he or she had died intestate. This could include spouses, children, or grandchildren, as well as more distant relatives. Those who were labeled as beneficiaries under a prior will could also have standing to contest the validity of a will if they were cut out of the more recent document or if their share of the estate was reduced.

Preventing Will Contests

One of the best ways that a testator can prevent a will from being contested is to have open and honest discussions with his or her heirs. It is also important to have these discussions while the testator is still in charge of his or her own affairs, as this can give the parties peace of mind regarding the testator’s true wishes. While such discussions are often thought callous or insensitive, the reality is that explaining which assets will be left to what parties can help ensure that descendants have a firm understanding of the testator’s intentions.

Call Our Office Today

Please call Orlowsky & Wilson, Ltd. Attorneys at Law at 847-325-5559 today to speak with an experienced Skokie contested estates attorney about your own will or the will of a recently deceased loved one.

Updated as of July 2019
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