Emotions are all ready running high if there’s been a death in the family, and the situation can quickly get worse if there is a dispute about that family member’s will. In order to successfully contest a will and get a judge to rule that it’s invalid, you need something concrete to go on. Unfairness isn’t going to be enough, unfortunately.
If your great aunt told you that she executed a will and that she is leaving you a sum of money, that’s not enough either. You need evidence. If there’s no copy of the will to be found, it’s as if it doesn’t exist. And maybe it never did exist. That’s the point. The person who supposedly made the will is no longer living, so there’s no way to know for sure. Verbal promises of a deceased person aren’t worth much in court, unfortunately.
If someone tells you that they have a will and that you are in it, make sure to get a copy, or ask where they keep their copy so that you can find it when you need it. Or they could at least tell you the name of the attorney who drafted it for them. You can then contact the attorney when you need to.
If you do have a valid will contest, then hire an attorney who is experienced with not just drafting wills but with litigation. You do not have to use the lawyer or law firm that drafted the original will. In fact, it’s often a good idea to not use them.
Don’t wait too long. You have six months after the will is filed to file your objection, in most cases. One major consideration is whether you are contesting the will on principle or because you are getting cheated out of a significant inheritance. If it’s the first reason, it might not be worth it and you might have trouble finding an attorney to take your case. For a larger estate, an attorney might work on a contingency basis, where you only have to pay them if you win. Other cases might require an hourly fee.
You don’t have to decide on your own whether to pursue a case. Consider getting a consultation with an Illinois attorney who is experienced in probate litigation and who has had success in those cases. And you can always call us to get our take on your situation.
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