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Can a will be contested after probate?

After Probate Can a Will Be Contested

Understanding Will Contestation

Will contestation challenges the validity or terms of a last testament. Most contests occur during probate, but some can arise even after probate has concluded. Probate is the legal process of verifying and administering a deceased person’s will. It involves proving the will’s validity in court and identifying and inventorying the deceased’s assets. Additionally, it includes paying debts and taxes and distributing the remaining assets to beneficiaries according to the will. Often, people question whether a will truly reflects the deceased’s intentions. After probate, can a will be contested? Yes, and such challenges typically stem from perceived legal flaws or conflicts among potential heirs. These heirs often question the circumstances under which the will was drafted.

Grounds for Contesting a Will

Lack of Testamentary Capacity

The testator must be fully aware of the nature of the document they are executing and its effects. They must understand the extent of their properties and identify the beneficiaries clearly. For example, a will drafted by a testator suffering from advanced dementia at the time of the will’s creation provides substantial grounds for contest due to lack of capacity.

Undue Influence

This occurs when a testator is coerced or overly manipulated by someone who stands to benefit, such as a caregiver or new friend. For instance, if a caregiver isolates an elderly person from their family and convinces them to alter their will in the caregiver’s favor, this could be grounds for contesting the will due to undue influence.

Fraud or Forgery

Challenging a will on the basis of fraud requires proving that the testator was misled about the nature of the document or that the will presented is not genuine. An example is someone tricking the testator into signing what they believe is a power of attorney, which is actually a will.

Improper Execution

Proper execution according to jurisdictional laws, including the requirement for witnesses, is crucial. A will that does not meet these legal formalities, such as having fewer than the required witnesses, can be contested and potentially declared invalid.


Evidence that the testator revoked a previous will through the creation of a new will or by destroying the old one can also lead to contestation. If a later will surfaces suggesting the previous one was revoked but was not known during probate, it could validate a contest.

Process and Challenges After Probate

Understanding the timing for contesting a will post-probate is crucial for any potential challenge. Therefore, the question of whether a will can be  contested after probate depends on the promptness and rigor with which the challenge is brought forward. After settling all matters related to the deceased’s property, the executor typically informs the relatives, setting the stage for the distribution of the estate according to the will. This phase marks the critical period during which contests must be filed.

People challenging a will need to move fast because there are strict deadlines after probate. Once they file their petition, the court will set a date for a hearing. At this hearing, everyone involved will make their arguments and show their evidence. The person challenging the will has to prove that there was a serious mistake in how the will was made or signed.


Example 1: Disputed Mental Capacity

Consider an elderly man with intermittent lucidity due to a neurological condition who drafts a new will favoring a recent acquaintance over his long-term caretaker daughter. The daughter, after probate, could challenge the will, arguing that her father lacked the mental capacity to make such decisions.

Example 2: Suspicious Last-Minute Changes

A wealthy woman revises her will to favor her new husband just days before her sudden death. This revision significantly disinherits her children from a previous marriage. These children, feeling wronged, could choose to contest the will once it enters probate. They would likely argue that their new spouse unduly influenced their mother. Additionally, they might claim that flaws in the will’s execution, particularly the improper following of required witness procedures, compromised its validity. Such claims, if proven, could potentially invalidate the new will, reinstating the previous terms that favored them.

Procedural Aspects of Contesting a Will Post-Probate

Timing and Notifications

The timing of a will contest is often constrained to a few months following probate acknowledgment. However, this period may extend under certain circumstances, such as the discovery of a more recent will.

Legal Representation and Costs

Securing experienced legal representation is crucial for navigating the complexities of a will contest. The costs associated include court fees, attorney’s fees, and expenses for expert witnesses needed to establish testamentary capacity or validate document authenticity.

Implications of Contesting a Will

Emotional and Familial Strain

Contesting a will can cause significant emotional distress and financial strain, often leading to conflicts and permanent rifts within families.

Impact on Estate Distribution

A successful will contest can profoundly alter the distribution of the estate. It may result in the enforcement of a previous will or distribution according to state intestacy laws if no valid will exists.


Contesting a will post-probate is complex, involving legal issues and family dynamics. It goes beyond legalities, touching on family and legacy. It requires solid legal grounds and consideration of family and financial effects. Thus, anyone in a will contest should get legal and strategic advice. They must honor the deceased’s wishes, maintain family harmony, and protect estate value. This balance is crucial.

This extended view into will contests underscores the complexity and sensitivity involved. It urges potential contestants to approach the matter with thorough preparation and an informed perspective.


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