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Heritage Tree LogoWho Can Contest a Will in Pennsylvania?

There are a number of reasons why an individual may want to contest a will. However, there are many restrictions. Because of this, you should reach out to our firm today to speak with a Butler County will preparation attorney about your situation.

Who is eligible to contest a will?

While laws vary from state to state, all state laws have requirements that must be met before a will contest can take place. The first requirement is “legal standing.”

The only person who has legal standing to contest a will and seek legal action for inheritance is someone who is:

  • Named in the will
  • Not a beneficiary but would inherit under the will if a judge deems the will invalid

Recognize that standing is the first requirement to overcome to challenge a will. You must either demonstrate that you were named in the will (or should have been) or indicate that you would have acquired something of value (generally money) if the individual had died without a will.

Those who are detailed in the will, also known as a beneficiary, can contest a will. This can include a surviving spouse, children, grandchildren, and other relatives, but it can also include friends, faith communities, universities, charities, and even pets.

Heirs are the most commonly named beneficiaries in a will. Heirs are relatives who would inherit even if the decedent had died “intestate” (without a will). Heirs include spouses, children, parents, grandparents, and siblings. Heirs can challenge a will if they were forgotten or were left with an excessive share in the inheritance. Heirs have the standing to challenge a will because they would have obtained a share of the estate through the laws of intestate.

Minors cannot challenge a will until they have reached the age of majority, which is usually 18. This is because minors are not legally able to initiate legal proceedings. A parent or guardian may initiate a lawsuit on their behalf.

When can a will not be contested?

Any will can be contested if you have standing and valid grounds to contest it. It is important to note that it may not be worth contesting a will. For example, some wills include a “no-contest” clause. A no-contest clause says that if a beneficiary or an heir challenges a will and loses, they will not inherit at all. They are disinherited.

No-contest clauses are not implemented in each state:

  • In some states, if you sue and lose, you can still inherit what you would have inherited if you had not sued.
  • Some states enforce no-contest clauses unless the person bringing the lawsuit has a good reason to sue.

Reach out to our firm today to learn more about how our attorneys can help you.

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