After a loved one has passed on, you most likely want to honor their wishes, including how they wanted their property and assets to be distributed. However, sometimes the only way to fulfill their legacy may involve challenging their will.
Maybe one of the beneficiaries will receive more than the testator intended to leave behind, or perhaps some of the instructions contradict some statements the testator had made. As a potential heir, if you suspect your loved one’s will contradicts their stated wishes, you can challenge the estate documents.
But are there risks of challenging a will in Washington?
You risk getting disinherited
Usually, testators include a no-contest clause to prevent their heirs and decedents from challenging their estate plans. Unfortunately, if there’s a no-contest clause in a Washington will, you may risk losing your inheritance if you challenge the will in court and lose.
However, while Washington courts uphold no-contest clauses, there are some exceptions. For this reason, courts have set some grounds for challenging a will without invoking the no-contest clause.
Some of the accepted grounds for a will contest include:
- Forgery, fraud or undue influence: You can contest a will if you suspect it was procured through fraud or forgery. Undue influence is also a ground for contesting a will. This typically involves a person manipulating a vulnerable testator to leave most of their estate to them.
- Lack of testamentary capacity: If you suspect your loved one was coerced or pressured to change their will, and they made changes when they lacked testamentary capacity, then the will may be invalid.
Challenging a will can diminish the estate’s value
Even if you avoid getting disinherited, you may lose part of your inheritance if you proceed to probate court. This is because litigated probate proceedings can be expensive and eat into the estate’s total value.
Courts assume that a deceased person’s will is in order unless any interested party contests it. However, the process of contesting a will has some risks and can be expensive. Therefore, consider seeking legal guidance to assess whether you have a clear ground for contesting.