Will contests are difficult legal challenges that can be lengthy, expensive, full of emotional ups and downs, and not always successful. However, sometimes a legal challenge to a will succeeds. When it does, what happens after a will is contested in Oregon?
What is a will contest?
Put simply, a will contest is when an interested party disputes the will itself. This contest also has to happen after the testator, or person who created the will, dies. (And that “interested party” bit matters a lot—more on that in a moment.)
The most common circumstance leading to a will contest is someone being excluded from the will or from a specific part of the inheritance, and they have legal reasons to believe they should not have been excluded.
Time, expense, and deadlines for will contests in Oregon
A will contest is also not a quick, easy, or inexpensive endeavor. It’s not uncommon for will contests in Oregon to cost upwards of $10,000 out of pocket. Challenges also typically require months of research and preparation, not to mention hearings in court, which can add weeks if not more months to the challenge.
Oregon estate proceedings law also limits the timeframe within which a legal will challenge can be filed. The person who objects, known as the objectant, must file their petition during probate proceedings. That petition also has to be filed no later than four months after notice to interested parties was delivered, mailed, or published.
Who can challenge a will, and on what grounds?
Will contests aren’t open to anyone and everyone either. Remember those “interested parties” we mentioned earlier? Only certain people are allowed to file a will contest. In order for an Oregon court to consider an objecting to have legal standing to file, they must have an interest in the estate, such as:
- An intestate heir
- Someone named as a beneficiary of a prior will or a later will
Having enough standing to be an interested party is only the first step. In order for a judge to side with a will contest, the objectant must produce sufficient evidence to reinforce the claims. Slighted feelings won’t cut it in the courtroom. The objectant will have to prove their case, such as:
- The will is invalid due to incapacitation or duress
- The testator had verifiable intent to specify different bequests and/or heirs
- Errors or fraud have invalidated the will
- Conflicting or unrevoked wills exist
- An earlier will has been entered into probate, but a later will exists
- The testator had agreed to revoke the will currently being probated
What happens when a will contest is successful in Oregon?
Will contests can be tricky, contentious, expensive, lengthy, and have consequences that go beyond the courtroom. They don’t always succeed, but sometimes they do. If a will contest fails, the court continues with the current will.
However, if the contest is successful, the probated will becomes invalidated and is thrown out. If another will has been proven to be valid, probate will continue under the terms of that will. But if no other will is found to be valid, estate proceedings continue as if there had been no will at all. This is known as intestate, and the succession and inheritance laws of the State of Oregon will apply.
Preventing, countering, or filing a will contest in Oregon takes skilled assistance and expert advice
The period after someone dies and their estate enters probate can be an emotionally difficult time that’s full of tension. A properly spelled out and executed will can prevent will contests. However, sometimes a will needs to be challenged in court—or a will contest needs to be countered. In Oregon, working with an estate planning attorney can be key in setting up a valid will, countering a will contest, or filing a challenge when the evidence merits doing so.
What are your needs around wills, will contests, and estate planning?