Probate is the process during which the decedent’s Last Will and Testament are placed of record at the Register of Wills Office in the county where the decedent resided. The Orphans’ Court oversees the distribution of the assets of the Testator – the person’s whose Will is filed for probate. It is possible that one of the heirs might feel inclined to contest its terms.
Someone might challenge the Will if, for example, they feel wrongfully left out or if it seems apparent that the Will is invalid. There are limitations as to who may contest a Will, and there is a process by which a challenger must prove that their concerns have merit.
Can anyone challenge a will?
Those who have a vested interest in the decedent’s estate may have the right to raise a challenge against the Will. Individuals named in the Will and those who can prove that they have a right to inclusion in the Will may have the right to contest the document. The Register of Wills officiating the probate process will not acknowledge a challenge from an individual who does not satisfy these conditions. However, in Pennsylvania, anyone can be disinherited except for a spouse.
When is a challenge valid during probate?
A valid challenge is one that proves that the Will does not express the true intent of the Testator. The challenger must prove a lack of testamentary capacity or the presence of undue influence at the time of executing the Will or forgery. Verifiable instances of fraud or duress can lead to the removal of certain sections or even the entire document.
Most Wills go through the probate process unchallenged and unhindered. However, an interested party may contest the Will if they think they have a valid reason for doing so.