For some families, reviewing the will of a deceased loved one can add significant stress to an already emotional situation. When the contents of someone’s will seem unexpected, unfair, or suspicious, dramatic conflicts can emerge among heirs and other beneficiaries. In such a situation, a formal will contest may be the best and only way to determine the facts.
Contesting a will is a complex and challenging process. But there’s no reason for you to face it alone. The seasoned Sun City will contest lawyers at Mushkatel, Robbins & Becker, PLLC have nearly 50 years of combined experience handling cases involving will and estate disputes. Let us put our knowledge to work for you. Call us today for a free, no-obligation case review to discuss your legal options.
Who Can Contest a Will in Sun City?
The only individuals who have legal grounds, or “standing,” to contest the validity of a will in Sun City are “interested parties.” Generally speaking, only individuals who are named in a will or are otherwise legally eligible to inherit any assets from the deceased are considered interested parties. If no formal or valid will exists, a judge will follow Arizona’s intestate succession laws to determine who can inherit assets from the estate.
Interested parties in most will contest cases include:
- Surviving spouses
- Minor biological or adoptive children
- Adult biological or adoptive children
- Named beneficiaries in the will
- Creditors of the decedent’s estate
- Individuals who would be considered intestate heirs
If you are not sure whether you have legal standing to contest the will, please contact us to discuss the details of your situation. We are here to help.
How Long Can It Take to Contest a Will in Arizona?
Contesting a will is rarely a speedy process. Most challenges are brought before or during probate, which is the formal legal process for validating a will and naming the executor of that will in court. There are several stages to the probate process. The amount of time each stage may take varies based on the complexity of a will and whether any objections are brought.
Usually, probate must be filed within two years of the decedent’s death. Any challenges should be submitted within that same time frame. If probate has already been opened, interested parties generally have four months to file objections before the court enters an order for informal probate proceedings. These are simpler, cheaper probate processes with no objections to the submitted will or chosen executor. Anyone who submits a successful challenge during or before informal probate will essentially freeze the informal probate process and force the proceedings into a formal probate.
Formal probate is a much more complicated process that involves one or more challenges to a will or executor. It requires significantly more court supervision than informal probate. Formal probate proceedings may take up to two years as concerns are voiced and evidence is presented in court.
After probate is closed, interested parties may still choose to file challenges within one year of closing or two years of the decedent’s death, whichever is sooner. However, after probate has been closed and assets have been lawfully distributed, it is incredibly difficult to reverse the process and redistribute assets.
How Much Does It Cost to Contest a Will in Sun City, Arizona?
The cost of any particular case is difficult to estimate, as it may vary widely based on the amount of time it takes to resolve the case in court. One conservative estimate from ConsumerReports.org suggests that most will contest proceedings cost anywhere from $10,000 to $50,000. An experienced attorney can help you estimate the value of your case and determine whether legal action is your best option.
Contact us now to meet with a knowledgeable will contest lawyer for a free evaluation of your case.
What Proof Do You Need to Contest a Will?
Contesting a will is not easy. You will need strong proof to succeed in court. You must present evidence that a person was not legally or mentally fit, was the subject of coercion or undue influence, or otherwise failed to meet legal requirements during the preparation of the will. Your attorney can help you gather such evidence in the form of:
- Letters or documents that reveal a will-maker’s true intentions or the presence of potential coercion from others
- Medical records, which could be used to prove mental capacity or fitness
- Statements from lawyers who prepared the will or witnesses who signed it
- Statements from those who knew or cared for the will-maker before or while the will was being prepared
What Are the Common Reasons for Contesting a Will?
There are many reasons a potential beneficiary may feel entitled to challenge a will. Legitimate reasons for a legal challenge to the validity of a will include:
- The disinheritance or exclusion of legal heirs in the will
- The existence of alternate, possibly superseding versions of the will
- A lack of legal eligibility or mental fitness on behalf of the will-maker
- The possibility of forgery, fraud, or undue influence in the making of the will
- A lack of proper preparation, signatures, or witnesses during drafting
How Can a Will Contest Lawyer in Sun City Help You?
Contesting a will involves challenging the will’s terms or validity in probate court, which is no simple task. Lack of legal representation will make contesting a will more time-consuming and less cost-effective. An experienced lawyer can assist you with:
- Determining your legal standing to challenge the will
- Identifying and requesting copies of current or prior wills
- Estimating the possible value of your case
- Filing contests, petitions, and other paperwork with the court
- Identifying and collecting compelling evidence for your case
- Communicating with family members and other parties for you
- Arguing for a fair settlement or favorable outcome for your claim
- Fighting for your best interests in court or mediation proceedings
No matter how complex your case, the Sun City will contest lawyers at Mushkatel, Robbins & Becker, PLLC are here to help you through it. Contact us now to schedule your free case review.