Berman & Asbel, LLP

Challenging a will

Families obviously face a difficult period when a loved one passes away, but this time can become even more emotional when disagreements about the decedent's estate arise. The rules regarding challenging a will vary from state to state, but there are generally only some people who can question a will. Here is some information about probate laws that Pennsylvania residents may need to know.

Only 'interested persons" can challenge a will, and this could include spouses, children, heirs or creditors. Typically, those bringing forward a claim are beneficiaries of a prior or subsequent will and interstate heirs. To contest a will, one must have standing. For example, someone who is not listed in a will but may still be affected by it might be eligible to contest the will.

Beneficiaries can challenge a will regardless of their relationship to the grantor, so this means that friends, religious organizations or charities could contest a will as long as they are listed in it. Heirs also have standing because they receive part of an estate if the decedent does not have a will in place, i.e., he or she died intestate. Relatives or spouses are usually heirs, and they may challenge a will if left out or questioning their portion of an estate.

This list of reasons why people use to challenge wills is not comprehensive, and it demonstrates the importance of proper estate planning. Loved ones may benefit more when no issues arise, and they may receive inheritances with fewer obstacles and delays. Some people use trusts along with wills so that the process is more private as trusts do not go through probate unless contested. Someone who is planning his or her estate may decide to speak with an attorney who might be able to help establish a will that is valid under Pennsylvania laws.

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