contesting a will in illinois

Challenging a will is never an easy process. Many times, family members and other interested parties will question the validity of the will. As you can imagine, that leads to plenty of legal concerns and family challenges. However, this document must be authentic and respect the wishes of the decedent. If you want to know the process for contesting a will in Illinois, here is what you can expect.  

What Is a Contested Will? 

When someone challenges the validity of a will, it is contested. There are many reasons for questioning this document. 

Sometimes, the person who made the will might have lacked the mental capacity to understand the process. In turn, an interested party could question whether the will lacked testamentary capacity. 

However, that is not the only reason. In some situations, another person might have undue influence over the testator, leading to contesting the will. 

Also, family members or interest parties may question whether the will is valid. The will may have been forged if a signature doesn’t match or the language seems strange. 

Like all legal documents, wills must meet specific guidelines. At the very least, the testator and witnesses must sign the document. If the document fails to meet those guidelines, it can lead to legal questions.

Who Can Contest?

In the state of Illinois, only certain parties can contest a will. This is known as standing, and it prevents anyone who does not have a specific interest from challenging the validity of the document. 

Those parties that can question the will include:

  • Heirs and beneficiaries: Close relatives and named beneficiaries have standing under the laws. Since these parties have a direct financial interest due to the terms of the will, they would be the most affected by an invalid will. 
  • Prior will beneficiaries: Sometimes, a new will replaces a former one. If that prior will name beneficiaries but left them out of the new document, those individuals have standing. As a result, they can contest the new will. 

What Is the Legal Process?

If you believe that a will is not valid, you will need to act quickly. In the state, you have to file a petition within six months after the will has entered into probate. After that, you need to outline why you are contesting will, such as if there is a lack of capacity or undue influence. 

Finally, all heirs, beneficiaries, and other interested parties must be notified about the partition. Once that is completed, the process will enter into trial de novo. During this process, the court will analyze all the evidence related to the claims of an invalid will. Remember that this process is entirely separate from the probate court’s decision. The court will look at this case independently from others. 

Trial de novo is similar to other court proceedings. You and your legal team must submit evidence supporting your claims. Medical records, witnesses, and expert testimony may be needed to prove the will is invalid. If you contest the will, the burden of proof lies on you. In short, you need to prove that something is amiss with the document. 

For that reason, you may want to seek assistance from a skilled probate lawyer. Many times, this process can be complicated, and it can lead to challenges from other interested parties. However, if you want to protect the interests of your loved one, it is important to make sure their wishes are honored. 

Learn More About the Probate Process

Contesting a will in Illinois requires a thorough understanding of the laws. Proceeding through this process can be challenging, and emotions can run high during these will contests. If you have questions about the validity of a will, make sure to reach out to our law firm. 

At Bielski Chapman, LTD, we will be able to help with these issues. Please call our office at (312) 583-9430 or fill out our contact form to schedule a complimentary 15-minute consultation.