Not Just Anyone Can Contest a Will
Imagine for a moment that you had a dear friend who lived a nice long life, yet also lived alone. Sometime before your friend’s passing, his children decided to hire a live-in caretaker for him. This caregiver ended up being a much younger woman who instantly became close with your friend, and because of this she began to spend much of her time with him.
You and his children didn’t exactly take kindly to this arrangement, because it seemed that the new care provider was starting to isolate him from everyone he knew.
When your friend ended up passing away, it was revealed that, shortly before his death, his new caregiver had taken him to her attorney’s office, and created a brand-new Will, leaving his entire estate to her alone – and in the process disinherited his children from what should have rightfully been their property.
You don’t personally believe that this newly created Will is valid. So, the question is, can you, as his friend, contest this new Will?
Unfortunately, the answer is Probably not, and here’s why:
In order to file a Will contest, you must have what is known in legal jargon as “standing,” meaning that you have to have a personal stake in the outcome of the case. Who has standing to file a Will contest?
1. Heirs at Law. The family members of the decedent who would stand to inherit under state law, absent a Will, but who are not included in the decedent’s Will, would generally have standing to file a lawsuit challenging the Will.
2. Prior Beneficiaries. An individual or entity named as a beneficiary in a previous Will of the decedent, but who is cut out of the decedent’s final Will, generally has standing to file a Will contest. This might include relatives who would not qualify as heirs at law, friends of the decedent, or even charities that once stood to gain from the decedent’s estate.
So, in the above scenario, as a friend of the decedent, unless you were named as a beneficiary in a prior Will, you would not have the right to file a Will contest.
A final note: it’s important to remember that the simple fact that an individual has standing to challenge a decedent’s Will does not mean that he or she can prove the necessary grounds for invalidating the Will.