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Contesting a Will: Is it Possible?

When a loved one dies, you go through many emotions. You may feel sad and alone and could feel melancholy for many months. Your loved one may have provided for how to handle their affairs and distribute their possessions after their death. If you discover that you were left out of the will or you find out you are not getting your share, you may wonder what you can do. It may not seem possible or likely that your loved one left you out of their will intentionally, yet you are not included. While a will is a legal document, there may be a way to contest the will.


What is a Last Will and Testament?


A last will and testament is a legal document that provides details for how a person’s estate is to be distributed after death. It contains specific details for how a person’s property and assets should be handled after the person dies. It usually names benefactors as well as an executor to oversee the administration of the estate. The will is a central document to an estate plan. Without a will, a person dies intestate, and the state laws govern the distribution of assets and property. The person who makes a will is called a testator.


What are the Requirements for a Valid Will in Washington?


Washington has several requirements for implementing a valid will. Anyone over the age of 18 and of sound mind may make a will. The will must be in writing. However, Washington is one of the few states that allows e-wills. The will must be signed by the testator in the presence of two witnesses in order to be valid. According to Washington law, the witnesses must be competent and must sign the document in the presence of the testator or provide an affidavit that complies with the law. If the testator does not have witnesses, they can self-prove the will through a notary.


What are the Reasons for Contesting a Will?


In Washington, as in other states, you must have a legitimate reason to contest or challenge a will. The law allows an interested party to contest a will under some circumstances. A will must be made by someone of sound mind. If the testator was not of sound mind when the will was made, it may be a legitimate reason for contesting it. A person cannot be coerced into making a will. Therefore, if a person made a will under duress or by coercion, the will would not be legal. Wills that are made through fraudulent actions are not legally enforceable. For example, if a person went to their elderly relative’s home when they were ill and forced them to sign a will, that document would not be considered legal.


Who is an Interested Party?


Washington law defines interested parties as “anyone who has an interest in the estate.” An interested party may be a spouse, sibling, child, other blood relative, or non-relative who is named as a beneficiary in some version of a will. In other words, you must have a genuine relationship with the deceased in order to contest a will. You will need to show the court that you are indeed a relative or somehow should be included in the will. Someone who is just a concerned friend cannot legally contest the will. If you think you should have been included, contact a probate attorney to help you contest the will.


What is the Process for Contesting a Will?


There is a process that you must follow in order to contest a will. First, you must gather proof that you are able to contest the will. This means that you must be able to show that the person’s will is not valid due to it being made improperly. You must show that you have standing to contest a will. In other words, you are an interested party, according to the law. You must submit a petition to the court within the allotted time period. The court will review your petition, and if it finds that you have cause to contest the will, it will adjudicate the case. It is very helpful to have a knowledgeable attorney assist you through the process.


How Long Do I Have to Contest a Will?


There are legal time limits you must follow if you want to contest a will in Washington. The law allows an interested party four months from the time of probate to contest a will. After four months, the probate is closed, and the assets of the estate are distributed accordingly. If the will is rejected, the parties have up to four months to file a petition with the court. There may be an exception if the person contesting the will was not properly notified. It is best to seek legal guidance as soon as possible so you don’t miss the timeframe to contest a will.


Was I Left Out of a Will?


Emotions often run high after the death of a loved one. You and your relatives may all feel that you have a right to the assets or property. The will is the legal document that guides the distribution of assets after someone dies. Although you may feel that you should be entitled to more or that your loved one would have wanted you to have a specific item, the wishes of the deceased are carried out through their will. If you have legitimate concerns because you were disinherited, left out, or are receiving less than you expected, you may be able to contest the will.


If you feel that your loved one’s will is not correct or that you were wrongfully excluded, you can take action. Contesting a will can be a complicated process in some cases. It is helpful to seek guidance from an experienced attorney as soon as possible. If you feel that you were improperly left out of a will, are not receiving what you expected or were told, or think that the will was not legal, you can contest it. Contact us today at View Ridge Family Law & Estate Planning at (206) 210-1562 to schedule a consultation.


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