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Time Limitations on Will Contests

Florida law gives interested parties the right to challenge the validity of a will if there is a belief that the will was not created under legal circumstances. There are strict rules related to how an objection must be filed, including who has the legal right to object to a will, where the petition to contest a will must be filed, how it must be filed, and the time limitations on will contests. In order to ensure that your petition for challenging a will is accepted and considered by the probate court judge it is important to understand when it must be filed, as there are time limitations on will contests. Failure to file your will contest within the timeframe may result in you losing the right to challenge the will even if you have evidence that the will is indeed invalid. If you have reason to believe that the last will and testament of a loved one does not reflect his or her wishes because it was made under illegal circumstances, contact an experienced Fort Lauderdale will contest lawyer who will explain to you the procedure for objecting to the will, including the time limitations.

Time Limitations on Will Contests

Under Florida probate law, the procedure to challenging a decedent’s will is filing an objection to probate. When someone passes away, that person’s will must be filed with the Florida probate court that has jurisdiction over the estate. A petition for administration must be filed along with the will. The person who files the petition is required to send interested parties such as beneficiaries under the will as well as the decedent’s next of kin notice of the filing of the petition for administration. A person receiving notice of a petition for administration may object to such petition prior to the will being admitted to probate. The process for filling an objection to the will being probated is filing a petition with the probate court. Such a petition must be filed no later than 3 months after the date of service of a copy of the notice of administration on the objecting person. The 3 month window is a strict time period. Failure to file before the deadline will result in the objection being barred.

Common Reasons for Objecting to Probate

As experienced Fort Lauderdale will contest lawyers will explain, the most common reasons for will contests include lack of testamentary capacity and undue influence.

  • Lack of testamentary capacity means that the testator did not have the mental capacity to make a will. Under Florida law, if the testator was suffering from a cognitive disorder such that he or she did not appreciate the impact of creating will. For example, a severe brain injury might make it impossible for a person to make a valid will as would advanced dementia. However, a diagnosis may not be enough for finding of lack of mental capacity as individuals with cognitive deficiencies may still be able to legally execute a will. Determination of mental capacity is a case-by-case analysis.
  • Undue influence means that a manipulative person in some way convinced or coerced the testator to include terms in his or her will favorable to the manipulator. Undue influence may involve duress such that the manipulator uses physical force or the threat of physical force. The manipulator may also apply psychological pressure. Regardless of how the pressure is applied, the result is that the testator’s last will and testament was not made of his or her own free will. Such a will should not be probated.

As an experienced will contest attorney in Fort Lauderdale will explain, regardless of whether an interested party has sufficient grounds to object to probating a will, if the person contesting the will fails to understand the time limitations on will contests, and fails to file the objection on time, the court will dismiss it. Thus, it is important to follow the rules and not be faced with a time limitations on will contests problem.

Remedy for a Successful Will Contest

Regardless of the reason, if the probate court judge is convinced that there was an illegal circumstance surrounding the creation of a will, then the judge will refuse to allow it to be admitted to probate.

If the problem is with a discrete portion of the will, the judge may void that portion. For example, evidence proved that someone used illegal methods to convince the testator to leave him a car. The judge may decide to void that term and allow the rest of the will to stand.

If the judge determines that the entire will is invalid, then the court will move forward as if that will never existed. For example, if there convincing evidence showed that the testator was suffering from advanced, severe dementia at the time he executed the will and did not have testamentary capacity to do so, the judge would declare the will invalid and look to probating a prior will. If there is not a prior will, the court will use Florida’s intestacy rules to distribute estate assets.

Contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates

Objecting to the validity of a will is complicated. For an objection to be successful, not only is it imperative that there is proof to support the grounds for objecting, the objection must be filed in a manner that is consistent with the procedural requirements. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates have years of experience representing beneficiaries, heirs, and personal representatives in will contests, and other types of matters related to probate and estate administration. We are here to help ensure that your objection is filed properly and that you are not faced with a time limitations on will contests problem. Contact us attorneys at 561-710-4000 to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case.

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