When a loved one or family member dies and leaves behind a will, beneficiaries or other family members can become offended or disappointed by the contents. Doubts or concerns can arise that perhaps the will was influenced or improperly drafted. To fight a will, a will contest in Pennsylvania requires identifying the current status of the will and meeting the requirements to prove it is not valid.
Pennsylvania will contests can become a more difficult task depending upon timing. When a will is submitted for probate, it initially is handled by the Register of Wills in the county where the testator resided. The Register of Wills transfers the will to the Orphans Court if there are no objections filed and the document is proper. If an objection is filed, the will cannot be transferred to Orphan’s Court until your objections are heard. A hearing is scheduled, heard and decided by the Register of Wills so the process is a bit simpler when the will has not yet been transferred. Once transferred, it is much more difficult to prove the will is invalid as it already made its way through the Register of Wills and their review process.
What makes a will invalid? To prove a will is invalid in Pennsylvania, the objection must prove: the will is fraudulent or forged, procedural mistakes in creating the will, or a beneficiary pressured the testator to sign for his or her own personal benefit, putting the testator under duress. If these requirements can be proven in the objection and at the hearing, the Register may deem the will invalid. When a Pennsylvania estate is deemed invalid, the estate is handled as though no will ever existed.
If the Register of Wills determines denies the objections, it will issue a decree and turn it over to Orphan’s Court. That decision can be appealed within a certain period of time, up to a year. At this point, the law is more in favor of the will being valid and can be more difficult to disprove. Having an aggressive and experienced estate attorney can help if you are on either side of the matter; beneficiaries dealing with a will contest or those who feel a will is invalid. Contact our office today by calling (215) 486-8171 or submitting an online inquiry form for more information and to schedule a consultation with a Doylestown estate lawyer.