When loved ones pass away, they leave behind important property and use their wills to assign it to specific family members and friends. If someone in your family recently passed away, chances are you expect to inherit something.
Maybe you expect to inherit real estate, like a family home or cherished family vacation property. If this property wasn’t titled to a trust and there is no joint tenant, it must go through the probate process and be distributed according to the deceased’s will. That might sound like a straightforward process, and under the best possible circumstances it can be, but probate doesn’t always go as smoothly as everyone hopes it will.
Unfortunately, probate can open the door to many different kinds of legal challenges. Among the most common of these challenges are those that directly dispute the legitimacy of the will. If someone contests your loved one’s will, it can interfere with your expectations for how your loved one’s real estate will transfer – you may even lose it before it was ever truly yours!
As you read on, though, keep one thing in mind: It’s difficult to prevail in a will contest because the courts are reluctant to revoke the will of a testator. That said, it’s not impossible if the party challenging the will has compelling evidence supporting their claim.
How a Will Contest over Real Estate Can Arise
The real property people leave behind can have much more than sentimental value – it likely has actual value, and significant value, too. For these reasons, a will contest can arise when an unexpected person inherits a testator’s real estate.
There may be concerns about whether that individual manipulated or coerced a potentially incapacitated testator into giving them the property. There may also be misgivings about whether the will admitted into probate was the most recent one – or if it was even real.
Who Can Contest a Will?
Not just anyone can contest a will. If that were possible, the probate courts would be clogged by a never-ending stream of will contests! Rather, those who can contest a will are those who have the legal standing to do so.
Legal standing to dispute a will is conferred when someone is determined to be an “interested party” and has sufficient grounds for their dispute. Interested parties include those named in the will admitted to probate, the beneficiaries of an earlier will, and the estate’s legal heirs.
When it comes to grounds, Oklahoma law offers four possibilities:
- A more recent will is discovered
- The Testator (will-maker) was not free from undue influence or coercion, or was incapacitated when the will was written and/or signed. This includes fraudulently written and signed wills.
- The will wasn’t executed, witnessed, and/or signed according to Oklahoma law
- Probate has brought up one or more questionable jurisdictional facts
What Are the Possible Outcomes of a Will Contest?
A will contest can result in the partial or complete invalidation of a will. If a will is partially invalidated, it means that one or more specific provisions of the will are thrown out, but the rest of the document may remain intact.
A complete invalidation of a will means that the whole document is thrown out of court. If a new will spurred the legal challenge against the will previously admitted into probate, then the court shall admit the new document in the latter’s place. If there is no new will, then the most recent previous will can be used. If there is no other valid will to consider, then Oklahoma’s intestate succession laws guide the probate process.
Real Estate & Probate Litigation Lawyer
A will contest can upend expectations when it comes to inheritance. If an inheritance included property like real estate, matters can quickly become complicated. If you need to take action to protect what’s rightfully yours, you need qualified legal representation to help you prevail in a probate dispute.
Our attorney at Bundren Law Firm is qualified to help clients involved in probate litigation matters. Her background in both probate and real estate law makes her a powerful advocate for people who require assistance with complicated probate litigation involving real estate.
If you would like to learn more about how Bundren Law Firm can help, don’t hesitate to call (918) 992-3300 now to get started.