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Different parties can challenge a will

A will is a legal document that is intended to be the final legal word on distributing a person's property and assets to their heirs. However, an invalid or improperly drafted will can constitute the grounds for estate litigation and for challenging a will. However, only specified individuals may mount a challenge regardless of the grounds asserted for contesting a will.

Disinherited heirs-at-law have the legal ability, known as standing, to contest a will. These individuals are closely related to the testator and would have received a share of the estate as being relatives of the decedent and there was no will. These relatives are identified under state law and are directly-related individuals, such as children or grandchildren, who are usually the first-in-line for inheritance.

Where three children survive the decedent and only two are identified in the will, for example, the third child may contest the will. While there is standing to contest the will, this party bears the burden of proving that the will is invalid. These grounds include that he was not intentionally left out as an heir, that the testator was under duress or mentally incapacity when the will was drafted or some other reason that the will is invalid. If this child prevails, the estate will be distributed as if the testator died without a will.

Next, any person or entity who was named in another previous will may contest the more recent document if they were left out of the more recent will, or if their share of the estate was reduced. They must prove that the most recent will is invalid. A person named as a fiduciary or estate executor in an earlier will may have standing if they were replaced in the latest will.

A no contest clause may, however, complicate a will challenge. Under these clauses, a beneficiary may forfeit any inheritance by challenging a will and losing the contest in court. Arizona law dictates when these clauses are valid.

Source: The Balance, "Who can contest a will?" Julie Garber, Accessed Dec. 11, 2017

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