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How to Contest a Will in Illinois

 Posted on March 21, 2024 in Estate Planning

Libertyville estate planning lawyerLosing a loved one is never easy, and dealing with their estate can add extra stress during an already difficult time. If you believe there are issues with the deceased’s will, you may wish to contest it in court. An Illinois lawyer can help you see if you have grounds to contest a will and how to go about it based on your situation.

Grounds for Contesting a Will

In Illinois, there are several valid grounds that allow you to initiate a will contest:

  • Lack of Testamentary Capacity: The deceased must have been of sound mind when creating their will. If you can prove they lacked the required mental capacity due to issues like dementia, the will could be invalidated.
  • Undue Influence: If someone exerted excessive pressure or took advantage of the deceased’s weakened state to unfairly influence the will’s contents, you can argue the will is invalid due to undue influence.
  • Fraud: A will can be contested if there is evidence of fraud, such as forged signatures, lying about the will’s contents, or intentionally omitting property.
  • Invalid Execution: Strict rules govern how a will must be executed in Illinois. If these formalities were not properly followed, you may have grounds to challenge the will’s validity.

Who Can Contest a Will?

Only those with a direct financial interest in the estate typically have legal standing to contest a will. This generally includes:

  • Spouses and children who were disinherited or left less than expected.
  • Beneficiaries who believe they are entitled to a larger share.
  • Creditors if the estate assets are insufficient to pay debts.

The Process of Contesting a Will

The first step is to file a petition with the Illinois court overseeing the probate of the will. Strict time limits apply, so it is crucial to act quickly, often within six months to a year of the will being admitted to probate. The petition must clearly state your legal grounds for contesting the will and include supporting evidence.

The court will then schedule a hearing where both sides can present their arguments. The burden of proof rests on the contester to establish the will’s invalidity by clear and convincing evidence. If successful, the court may declare the entire will invalid. In some cases, part of the will’s provisions may still stand if proven valid.

Resolving Will Contests Through Negotiation

Will contests can quickly drain assets through costly litigation. For some families, negotiating an out-of-court settlement makes more sense financially and emotionally. An alternative is to participate in court-ordered mediation. With the guidance of an experienced mediator, the parties may discover creative compromises that preserve family relationships while reasonably distributing the estate assets.

Contact a Libertyville, IL Estate Planning Attorney

Contesting a will is a complex process with many emotional and potential challenges. A Lake Forest, IL estate planning lawyer is essential to have on your side, from evaluating your standing and claims to ensuring you meet all required deadlines and procedures. Newland & Newland LLP has more than five attorneys that can help you. Call Newland & Newland, LLP at 847-549-0000 for a free consultation.

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