Who Can Challenge a Will?

By James Parker
January 18, 2022

In film and television, when a will is challenged it is usually by some disaffected antagonist who loudly bursts into the room while the family is all gathered around a solemn-looking attorney. In the world outside the silver screen, however, there are guardrails in place to ensure that this scenario never happens. The challenging of a will is not a simple process, and many would-be challengers are defeated before they even consider the challenge. The most important question to answer when thinking about challenging a will is who is allowed to challenge it in the first place?

One of the most important concepts in the entire U.S. legal system is standing. Standing is defined concisely as the capacity of a party to bring suit in court. The Supreme Court has crafted a three-part test to determine whether one party has the capacity to bring a lawsuit against another.

  1. The plaintiff has suffered actual, quantifiable injury through some action.
  2. That injury was caused by the actions being sued over.
  3. In the event of a successful lawsuit, it is likely that the court will be able to resolve the injury. 

This test can also be applied to someone who wishes to challenge a will and can be summarized in the term “interested person.” An interested person is someone who is either named in a will, past or current, or would have received some inheritance if the deceased had passed with no will at all.

In general, interested persons were either denied some inheritance by a change to a newer version of the will, or they were naturally inclined to receive some portion of the inheritance. The full list of potential interested persons includes:

  • Charities
  • Children
  • Churches and faith communities
  • Distant relatives
  • Friends
  • Grandchildren
  • Pets
  • Surviving spouses
  • Universities

What must be proved to the probate court is that it is more likely than not that they should have received some amount of the deceased’s estate. What proof will be required to prove this will vary by state and by how tenuous the relationship to the deceased is perceived to be. Before attempting to challenge a probate court, it would be prudent to consult with a trusts & estates attorney.

If you are looking to challenge the outcome of a will and believe you have the standing to do so, or you’re looking to craft a will that will overcome any challenge, you will need an experienced trusts & estates attorney. A trusts & estates attorney can help you enter your challenge in the appropriate venue, present your strongest case, and advocate on your behalf. The best place to find a trusts & estates attorney is at Attorney at Law.

At AAL, our nationwide network of attorneys and law firms allows us to match you with an experienced trusts & estates attorney in your area. Our partners have the resources, legal expertise, and experience necessary to unravel even the most complex trusts & estates cases. 

In addition to resources and experience, our partners also excel in client care. Our partners understand that at the core of a trust & estate case is the loss of life and the desire to see the estate distributed in a way that honors the deceased.

Don’t wait. Contact AAL today for a free, no-obligation consultation and secure your future. 

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