Probate proceedings are known to take some time. One thing that can greatly extend the process is by contesting a will. If you’ve recently lost a loved one, and have reason to disagree with the will, what can you do? How can you contest a will?

The Qualifications 

It is not easy to contest a will. In order for you to be able to contest the will, you have to meet one or more requirements. What are these qualifications?

  • Prove Lack of Testamentary Capacity – Testamentary capacity means that the decedent was of sound memory and mind when constructing their will. They were able to make sound judgements about their assets and the future of their estate. It means they were able to understand their actions and the effects it would have after their death and was not affected by sickness or mental disorder(s). If it can be proven that the decedent lacked testamentary capacity, this can be grounds for contesting a will. 
  • Coercion – If it can be proven that the decedent was coerced or influenced by another party when constructing their will, this can constitute a contestation. Coercion can include pressure, violence, aggression and bullying, and other influential communication. 
  • Forgery – A forged will can result in the will being proven invalid. Forgery applies to signatures, stipulations laid out in the will, and anything else pertaining to the  legal document. 

In Illinois, a person has 6 months after the will is admitted to probate to contest the will. The person must also have standing in order to claim any of the above. This means they stand to be affected by the will in some way. 

Assembling Proof

Before presenting your contestation to the courts, you need to put together substantial proof that there was coercion, lack of testamentary capacity, or forgery. You can also contest a will if it doesn’t align with the Wills Act of 1837. The latter is easier to prove than the aforementioned causes merely because it is a legal document with clearly stated guidelines. If the person who stands to benefit from the will can be proven to have influenced the decedent, you may be approved to contest the will. Similarly, if you can prove that the will was created around a time when the decedent was not of sound mind (such as being sick with dementia), you can present this to the court. If you know something was wrong with the will, you can get help from an experienced attorney to help you compile and organize evidence. Gathering proof is the hardest part when getting started. Once the court proves the will invalid, a prior will, will be considered, or if there is none, a judge will dictate probate. 

An attorney and client sit at a table going through paperwork on contesting a will

Is Contesting A Will Right For You?

At the end of the day, contesting a will is constantly and time-consuming. It isn’t the right choice for everyone. If you believe you have a good reason to contest a will and want to take the next steps, contact an experienced attorney. Schottler & Associates is based in the Chicago area and offers free 30 minute consultations. Set your consultation up here.

Mark Schottler is a Chicagoland attorney with over 20 years of experience working both in probate and estate planning law and in real estate law. He puts his extensive knowledge on these subjects into easily consumable articles that will help and advise the public. Mark Schottler has a passion for probate and uses this to create relevant articles that are informative and entertaining. *While these posts may detail general legal issues, it is not legal advice. Use of this site does not create an attorney-client relationship.