If you want to contest a will, there are certain requirements that must be met to determine if you can do so legally. This means that you must first have legal standing before you can contest a will in Tennessee. The following are a few questions about determine who might have standing to contest a will and some of the other constraints regarding an estate dispute.
How long do you have to dispute a will in Tennessee?
The legal time limit, or statute of limitations for contesting a will in Tennessee is two years from the date the will is admitted to probate. TN Code § 32-4-108 (2019)
Who has legal standing to dispute a will?
In Tennessee, the person who wishes to contest a will, the plaintiff, must show that they would be entitled to a share of the decedent’s estate if the will in question were to be set aside. If there is another will which is not being contested, the plaintiff must be someone who would stand to receive something in that will. If the plaintiff is not a beneficiary, and if they would not inherit under intestacy law, then they do not have standing to contest the will.
What are the grounds to contest a will?
The plaintiff must have grounds, or a specific concern validated by the law, to contest a will. In Tennessee these include:
- Improper execution
- Lack of capacity
- Undue influence
Any person over age 18, and who has a sound mind can make a will. The will must be in writing, signed by the person making the will (testator) and witnessed and signed by two witnesses in the testator’s presence. The plaintiff would have to prove how the will was improperly executed if these basic requirements have been met.
If the plaintiff is claiming lack of capacity, the court will attempt to determine whether this claim is valid. Undue influence occurs when an individual who might stand to benefit tries to pressure the testator. If the plaintiff can prove undue influence, the court may invalidate the section in question or the entire will.
Who administers the estate when a will is contested?
Once a will has been challenged, the court may appoint a neutral third-party to administer the estate until the dispute has been resolved.
If I was disinherited, can I contest the will?
A person who is related to the testator, and who would have inherited from the decedent’s estate had they died intestate (without having made a will), may have standing to contest a will. While they can legally challenge the will, this is no guarantee that they will prevail. Having standing, but not being included in the will, is not reason enough to challenge it. The plaintiff would have to prove that the testator did not omit their name in the will intentionally.
Contesting a will is complicated, and if the process is not initiated immediately, the plaintiff could run out of time and lose their chance to have their dispute heard. You must have a valid reason to dispute an estate, and it is vital that you engage the services of an experienced Chattanooga probate litigation attorney immediately.
At Wagner & Wagner Attorneys at Law, you benefit from our years of experience with the law and in the community. You can rely on us through some of the most difficult periods of your life. If you or a family member has any questions about a probate litigation issue, we invite you to speak with an experienced probate lawyer our firm at 423-756-7923 or complete our contact form to schedule a free consultation. We also offer legal services to clients in Chattanooga, Cleveland, and all surrounding counties.