What is Probate?

Probate is “the judicial procedure by which a testamentary document is established to be a valid w.”  General administration of the will in place occurs during this process. Items such as how the decedent wishes to leave a bank account, real estate, or other financial investments are discussed. Generally speaking, an executor is appointed and named in the will, and this person is responsible for initiating the probate process.

In Colorado, there are typically three categories of probate. One is probate for a small estate totaling less than $50,000 with no real property, those that are uncontested, and those that are contested. Depending on the circumstances, finalizing an estate in Colorado can take several months or longer. Most estates will have to undergo the probate process unless there are procedures in place that administer the assets before death, thereby avoiding most or all of the probate process.

Reasons to Contest a Will

If you have a legal reason to contest a will versus just a personal interest in doing so, you may choose to contest a will. Some of the most common reasons to do so are listed below.

Revocation – in some cases, an original will have been revoked, and a new one was created to replace it. In some cases, a prior will may be submitted through probate in hopes that the interested parties will benefit more greatly from the previous will than the replacement. If it is found that the original will was revoked and a new one was in its place, you can contest a will based on revocation.

Testator not of sound mind – a testator or creator of a will must be of sound mind when they create a will. If it can be proven that the testator was not of sound mind when the will was created, you may contest it on this basis. To be of sound mind, the testator must be able to comprehend what they are signing, who inherits what fully, and that means for all parties involved. If it is found that a testator was not of sound mind through medical records or other means, this may be grounds to contest the will. It is essential to note that mild dementia symptoms or mental health issues may not be grounds for incapacity or sound mind.

Other Reasons to Contest a Will

Undue Influence – a testator must be free of influence or pressure when creating their will. If it is found that a family member or legal representation pressured them to make the will, it may be denied due to undue influence. It is difficult to imagine that caregivers or other interested parties may use fraud or pressure tactics to influence a testator, but it does occur. The will may be thrown out if it can be proven through video or communication that the testator was a victim of undue influence.

Requirements not met – if it is found that the will doesn’t meet statutory requirements, it may be denied or easily contested. Requirements include that the will was written, signed, and notarized. This may be one of the most straightforward examples to prove as if the will in question doesn’t meet the requirements standard of Colorado law; the will can be contested.

In conclusion, simply feeling like you didn’t get what you thought you deserved out of a will is not sufficient reason to contest the will and have it thrown out. If you feel one of the above examples is valid, work with an experienced estate attorney to determine your options.

Who Can Contest a Will?

To contest a will in Colorado, you must have legal standing to do so. Legal standing means a party has a valid interest in the will that can be proven.

For example, if you have a relationship with the testator or are mentioned in the will or other documents, such as a trust, you may have legal standing to contest the will.

Examples may be if you are one of three children and received nothing from a will, but your siblings did. This may be grounds for contesting (or at least further investigation) the will.

Speak with an experienced estate attorney to determine whether or not you have legal standing and valid reason to contest a will.

What Happens if a Will is Contested?

If the courts determine that the will in question can be upheld, the assets are distributed as stated in the will, and the legal document stands.

If the courts find that the will in question is invalid, the courts may deem an earlier version of the will to be valid and follow those requirements. If there is no other valid will, the courts will treat the estate as if the testator never created a will, and the assets will be distributed based on Colorado Intestacy Statute.

Contesting Wills are Complex, But Not Impossible

Though the process can seem tedious, an experienced estate attorney can help to ensure you have a reasonable chance to contest the will you are questioning and represent you while you proceed.

If you have legal standing and a valid reason to contest a will, reach us at 303-557-2011 to begin the process. We will walk you through your options and explain how to contest a will successfully.

Similarly, if you want to ensure that the will you create is fail-proof and won’t be subjected to interested parties or creditors contesting it, we can assist you, too. We look forward to serving you and your loved ones.