Grounds for Contesting a Will in Illinois
UNDER WHAT CIRCUMSTANCES CAN YOU CHALLENGE A WILL?
After a loved one’s death, there is nothing more unsettling than finding out that they left a will which (1) appears to be the product of coercion by some outside individual or (2) was executed after the decedent lost the mental capacity to sign a will. If you discover that your loved one left behind a will which does not appear to reflect their true wishes, you should consult with a qualified estate litigation attorney immediately to discuss initiating a will contest lawsuit.
The will contest process asks the court to void the will in its entirety and declare it invalid. There are deadlines which limit an interested party’s right to challenge a will, therefore it is imperative that you act quickly.
Interested parties that may challenge a will:
Any person who is adversely affected by a will can file a will contest action with the probate court. This action must be filed within six months of the date that the will is admitted to probate. The parties that were adversely affected by an improper will are those individuals who would receive the decedent’s property if the challenged will were declared void. This can be the people that were to receive property under the most recent prior will; or, if there was no prior will, the decedent’s heirs at law have a right to contest the will.
The grounds for challenging a will under Illinois law:
There are many different facts which can act to void a will. However, there are three claims that come into play in most all will contest lawsuits.
Lack of Testamentary Capacity
A will can be declared invalid if the decedent signed the will at a time when they were not of sound mind and did not have the required mental capacity to understand what they were signing. This type of claim often comes into play when a will was executed shortly before the decedent’s death or at a time when the decedent was suffering from dementia or some other serious illness.
A claim for undue influence seeks to have a will declared invalid because the will was a product of the coercion from some outside individual who benefited from the will. The theory is that the will was a product of this improper influence, rather than the decedent’s own wishes.
Many other facts can be relevant when asking the court to declare a will invalid. These include claims that the will was the product of fraud or is a forgery. In addition, other facts such as collusion with other individuals, including advisors, to obtain the decedent’s signature on a will can be used to build a strong argument for invalidating a will.
If you believe that you were excluded from a will based on any of the factors set forth above and would like to discuss your rights and options in challenging a will or making a claim against a decedent’s estate, you need to consult with a qualified estate litigation attorney. The experienced Chicago estate litigation lawyers at Hays Firm LLC have helped many individuals through the process of challenging a will in order to ensure that their loved one’s true wishes were carried out. Please feel free to contact us anytime to discuss how we can help.