The death of a loved one is always difficult to process, but their passing will be all the more stressful if it creates tension and fighting within the family due to arguing over inheritances. A loved one may have left behind a will, but there are plenty of circumstances that can lead to their family members being disinherited, leading to arguments about what the decedent's wishes really were. For example, a person may have remarried and forgotten to update their will before they died, leaving their new spouse with nothing. Another example is when new children are born since the will was created, if they're not in the will, they may not receive an equal share of assets compared to their siblings.
Individuals who believe they have been unfairly left out of a will may get the opportunity to challenge the will's contents in court during the probate process. It all depends on whether they are considered an interested party.
What Is an Interested Party?
After a person dies, their will must go through the probate process to ensure that all debts are paid and assets are distributed according to their last will and testament. During probate, interested parties may make claims that they are entitled to assets even if they were not specifically given such assets in the will. Only those with interested party status are legally allowed to make these claims, so it is important to identify any interested parties during the probate process.
An interested party is typically one of the following:
- A direct relative of the deceased person, even if they were not named in the will
- A person who was named in a previous version of the will but left out of the current one
- A creditor that is owed money by the deceased person
Individuals and companies with a financial stake in the distribution of the decedent's assets can be considered interested parties, but not every case will be allowed to proceed in court. Thus, it is important for an individual to consult a probate attorney about whether they qualify as having interested party status. An attorney may evaluate their case and help them find supporting documents to prove their legal standing and their grounds for contesting the will.
How Does a Will Contest Proceed?
Depending on the size of an individual's estate, there might be many interested parties involved. The probate process could drag on for months or years until each case is addressed and all the assets are distributed as ruled by a probate court, so states typically set a time limit during which to file for any litigation. To stand the best chance of a successful will contest, it is important to file in a timely manner with legal representation. A probate attorney will help their client submit all the paperwork required during the window of time allowed. If the court agrees that the individual has valid grounds to contest the will, they may have their share of assets distributed before the end of the probate process.
To learn more, contact a probate attorney today.