Can You Contest a Will If You Are Not in It?
After a loved one passes away, there is a process in place for providing inheritance to beneficiaries. When a person has a will, the spouse, child, or other loved ones should file for probate. The will must be reviewed by a probate court in order to determine whether it is legitimate. If so, the probate process continues. Some people are surprised to find that they are not included in the will. In general, you can contest a will even if you are not in it, as long as the criteria for contesting a will are met.
Who can Contest a Will?
Any interested party is allowed to contest a will. Texas Probate Code defines an interested party as a child, spouse, heir, creditor, or any person who has a property right or claim against the estate. An interested party has a financial interest in the will. Therefore, an interested party can contest a will, even if he or she is not specifically listed in it.
If you are not an “interested party” by definition, you are unable to legally contest the will. Although you may be able to notify an interested party of your concern, there is no legal course of action for a non-interested party.
How to Contest a Will
Interested parties may contest a will, but only for a small number of reasons. You can not simply contest a will because you think it is unfair. The limited reasons for contesting a will in Texas include:
- Forgery or Fraud: The will was forged or was misrepresented when it was presented for signature by the testator.
- Testamentary Capacity: The testator was not of sound mind when he made or signed the will. He was unable to understand the effects of the will.
- Undue Influence: Someone used force or undue influence on the testator to sign the will.
- Will was Not Properly Executed: The will was not witnessed when signed.
If any of these grounds apply and you are an interested party, you may be able to contest the will. The law limits the time to contest a will. In general, you must contest a will within two years after it is accepted into probate. Therefore, do not delay. If you need to contest a will, you should take action immediately.
Seek Legal Assistance
The process of contesting a will can be complicated. You must first meet the criteria in place to contest a will. If you meet the criteria you may be allowed to proceed with legal action. Contesting a will is a litigation case. Therefore, it is best to seek guidance from an experienced probate and will attorney.
The first step is to discuss the matter with your attorney. Your lawyer will review all aspects of your situation and help gather the information and documentation that is necessary to litigate the matter. If you are not in a will and want to contest it, we can help. Contact Michael P. Fleming & Associates, P.C. today for a consultation 713-221-6800.