What is involved in a formal Will contest during probate?
A Will Contest is a lawsuit challenging the validity of a will and/or its terms. Bases for contesting a will include the competency of the maker of the will (testator) at the time the will was signed, the "undue influence" of someone who used pressure to force the testator to give him/her substantial gifts in the will, the existence of another will or trust, challenging illegal terms or technical faults in the execution of the will, such as not having been validly witnessed.
A trial of the will contest must be held before the will can be probated, since if the will is invalid, it cannot be used in the probate process. A Will may be challenged by someone who insists that the decedent lacked proper mental capacity to have executed the Will appropriately and legitimately - in other words, may have been senile, very sick or even delusionary, or of unsound mind - at the time the documents were created. That the writer of the Will was subjected to fraud, coercion or undue influence during its creation, that the Will is too vague, or that the Will is a complete forgery, or any number of alleged improprieties.
If, as a result of a serious objection or objections, the Will is deemed at this stage of probate to be invalid, the probate court may invalidate the entire Will, or only the challenged section of the Will. If the entire Will is deemed to be invalid by the probate court, the estate will be distributed under the state's probate laws of "intestacy" (i.e., as if there had never been a Will).
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