The period of time following the death of a parent is often filled with grief, confusion, and heightened emotions. Unfortunately, there are legal steps that must be initiated during this time as well, such as the probate of the decedent’s estate. Though probate serves additional functions as well, one primary purpose of probate is to ensure that assets of the decedent are legally transferred to the intended beneficiaries. If the decedent was your father, you are likely expecting to inherit from the estate. If you are notified that someone has challenged the Will admitted to probate, your next question is likely “ What happens to my inheritance if someone contest my father’s Will ? ”
In the State of Illinois, a Will contest may be filed by an interested person for up to six months after a Will is admitted too probate. An “interested” person is someone who has a “direct, pecuniary, existing interest which would be detrimentally affected by the probate of the proffered will.” Usually this means beneficiaries under the Will admitted to probate, legal heirs of the estate, beneficiaries under a prior Will, and/or creditors of the estate.
When someone files a Will contest they must allege grounds on which the Will could be found to be invalid. Simply being unhappy with an inheritance, or being left out of a Will, is not a sufficient legal reason to contest a Will. The underlying claim in a Will contest is that the Will admitted for probate is not valid for some reason. The grounds on which a Will contest may be filed in the State of Illinois include:
Lack of testamentary capacity – alleges that the Testator lacked the mental capacity needed to execute the Will.
Fraud or forgery – this can mean anything from pages added after signing to the Testator was tricked into signing the Will because he/she thought it was another document.
Revocation – claims the Will admitted to probate was legally revoked prior to death.
Ignorance of contents of Will – for example, if the Will was prepared for the Testator but he/she was not given the opportunity to read through the Will prior to signing it.
Once a Will contest has been filed, the probate process comes to a halt. The Will contest must then be litigated before probate can begin moving forward again. The reason for this is that if the Will contest is successful, the terms of the Will admitted to probate are no longer valid. Instead, the decedent’s assets will be distributed according to the provisions of a prior valid Will or according to the State of Illinois laws of intestate succession if no prior valid Will exists.
If you have additional questions or concerns about how a Will contest will impact the probate of your father’s estate, contact the experienced Illinois estate planning attorneys at Nash Bean Ford & Brown, LLP by calling 309-944-2188 to schedule your appointment today.