Who Can Challenge a Will
Under Florida law, you can challenge the validity of a will if you have an interest in the probate proceeding and if you have reason to believe that the will does not truly reflect the wishes of the testator due to fraud or lack of capacity. Each year after losing a loved one many people in Fort Lauderdale are further distressed upon learning about the terms of the decedent’s will. However, just because someone is not happy with the terms of a will does not mean that they have the right to object to it in court. In order to challenge a will you must have standing. Legal standing is the term that defines who has a sufficient connection to an issue to bring a claim in court. If you have concerns about the validity of a will and would like to file an objection to probate, it is important that you contact a skilled Fort Lauderdale will contest lawyer who has significant experience litigating estate cases in Fort Lauderdale courts.Legal Standing in Florida
In Florida, a the procedure for challenging a will is to file an objection to the petition for probate. In order to have the right to file such a petition, the objector must be an interested party. This means that you have a direct, immediate financial interest in the estate. In practical terms that means the only people who can object to a will are those who are named as beneficiaries in the will, those who were named as beneficiaries under a prior will, and those who are legal heirs of the decedent based on Florida laws on intestate succession.
- Beneficiaries. Beneficiaries have standing because if the court finds in favor of the objectant and the will is invalidated, the beneficiaries will not receive anything.
- Beneficiaries of a prior will. Beneficiaries of a prior will also have standing as they stand to gain if the current will is invalidated. The court may end up probating the prior will.
- Heirs. Heirs are relatives of the decedent such as the surviving spouse, children, and grandchildren who stand to gain if the will is invalidated and there is no prior valid will. If this happens then the decedent’s estate will pass to his (or her) heirs as described in Florida’s rules of intestate succession.
Oftentimes beneficiaries and heirs are the same people, but not always. For more information on who can challenge a will and if you are unsure as to whether you have standing to contest a will, contact an experienced Fort Lauderdale will contest lawyer.
In addition to having standing to sue, the objector must also have grounds. This means that the reason for objecting must be more than being angry at not receiving a large share of the estate, or having a feeling that something is not right. The objector must have some evidence that undue influence, duress, or fraud was involved, or that the testator did not have the mental capacity to make a will.Consequences of a Will Challenge
Keep in mind that regardless of whether or not a will challenge is successful, it will extend probate. Generally, in Florida probate takes up to 12 months. However, as a will contest attorney in Fort Lauderdale will explain, the personal representative can petition the court for more time if circumstances require it. Before probate can proceed, the judge must determine if the will is valid. This will delay the process. If the court determines that the will is not valid, a prior will, if any will be probated. Otherwise the estate will be administered based on the rules of intestate succession. Under intestate succession rules the surviving spouse would inherit the entire estate if there are no children. If there is a spouse and children, the spouse would receive ½ of the estate and the children would share in the other half. If there are children, but no surviving spouse, the children will share in the estate. Otherwise the estate will go to the next of kin based on the rules of intestacy rules.Contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates
Objections to probate can be emotional and contentious. They can also be complex and procedurally confusing. To ensure that your legal rights are protected, it is important to have a skilled will contest attorney serving Fort Lauderdale on your side. The experienced attorneys at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates have years of experience representing personal representatives, beneficiaries, and heirs in disputes related to wills, trusts, and other estate documents. We will explain the details of who can challenge a will and help ensure that your interests are protected. Contact us attorneys at 561-710-4000 to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case.