When someone dies, the first important legal question to ask is whether the person had a valid Last Will and Testament, which is often simply referred to as a “Will.” If they did, that Will will be submitted to the Probate Court. The Probate Court then oversees the process of ensuring that all the estate assets are accounted for, all the debts and bills of the estate are paid, and the estate assets are distributed exactly as the Will explains.
In order for a will to be “valid” and accepted by the probate court for administration, it must meet certain requirements. For example, some of the requirements include that the will must be signed by the person creating it, it must have two witnesses, and the person creating a will must have created the will without anyone else coercing them into it. A will can often contain a lot of technical and specific language to achieve certain legal outcomes, so the court must look carefully at whether or not the will is valid. When there is an error in the language of the will, the execution of the will, or if the language in the will is unclear, it may be subject to a contest.
A person who is contesting a will may challenge whether the decedent was coerced to either make a will or to make certain provisions for property in the will. A will contest may argue different meanings of the will signer’s true intent. Or a person contesting a will may be some person, for example, a spouse, child, or grandchild, who was not named in the will, but they believe they have legal rights to inherit some portion of the estate.
Whatever the circumstances, careful legal attention is best when you are or think you are entitled to property under a will or think that someone close to you omitted you from his or her estate. Contact us to discuss any of these matters.