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What Is a Contestant? Definition, Uses and Importance.

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A contestant is a person defending against an unfavorable claim brought before a court by a plaintiff or a prosecutor; contesting a position taken by a party in legal action, such as contesting the validity of a will. A person who contests that an individual’s last testament was valid and binding, usually because it does not comply with certain legal requirements or contains errors in an organization.

Importance of Will Contest

Successfully contesting a will can result in the will being completely or partially nullified. In the case of wills that are completely nullified, the estate is treated as if no will ever exist, and the probate court distributes the property in accordance with intestate statutes of inheritance.

How does Will Contest Work?

The filing of a will contest, often known as a “Caveat,” is an option available to family members who are dissatisfied with the terms of a will or estate plan.

Estate planning documents, such as wills and trusts, are legally binding legal documents, but they cannot speak for themselves after the grantor who created them has passed away. When a loved one passes away, the family is the first to find out their estate arrangements. That is an extremely difficult period for everyone. It has the potential to lead to people contesting a will.

See also: 7 Ways to Receive An Early Distribution Of Probate

Rights and duties of the contestant

To challenge an estate planning document, a person must have what is known as “standing,” which is the legal authority to do so. Someone who received property from the decedent and was named as a beneficiary in their will may file a will contest by filing a written opposition, or “caveat,” to the probate of the will within an allowable time period, which is six months from the date the executor is appointed in the state’s probate court.

An “interested person” is anyone who has a legal property right in or a claim against the decedent’s estate, including an heir, child, spouse, creditor, settlor, beneficiary, or any other person who has a legal property right in or a claim against the decedent’s estate.

Also, see: Inventory of Probate Assets: Defenition, Timeline and Importance

In some cases, wills and trusts can be called into question by claiming that the person who created the document lacked the mental capacity to do so. It is possible that they were mentally incapacitated if they were sick or so impaired that they did not know what they were signing or did not fully understand the contents of the documents. In this case, the will or trust may be successfully challenged in a will contest or trust litigation case.

See also

Fraud can also be used to justify contesting a will or trust. It is considered fraud when someone signs a document that does not convey their preferences and when they are tricked into signing a document and are misled as to what the document is all about. Once the document has been created, fraud occurs when it is destroyed by someone other than the decedent or when somebody other than the creator inserts pages to the document or forges the person’s signature on the document.

Who Can Be a Contestant?

Simply put, a Will contest is an attempt to have writing declared void, specifically an instrument that has been submitted to the Probate Court and purports to represent the final will and testament of a person who has subsequently died.

Anyone who is “interested” in a Will may contest it. This includes heirs and devisees as well as children and spouses. It also includes anyone who has a property interest in or claims against the decedent’s estate that could be affected by the probate proceeding.

The “executor” is a person the testator has appointed to be in charge of the probate of their estate. Notably, an executor who does not inherit from the will does not have the standing to initiate a Will contest against the will. 

It is important to remember that once a Will has been allowed to probate by the Court, while it may still be challenged, doing so will be much more difficult, and the person who can dispute it will have much less standing. While it is always advantageous for a contestant to challenge a will before the will is admitted to probate, the estate should have the will admitted to probate as soon as possible and hope that the contestants will wait until you have been successful in your challenge.

The lifespan of a Will Contest

If you are dissatisfied with a will, you must obtain legal advice as soon as possible because the time constraints for contesting a will can be as short as six months from the date of the grant of probate or the issuance letters of administration.

Synonyms for Contestant

  • Competitor
  • Participator
  • Player
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