Can a Will be Challenged?

July 16, 2018 in Uncategorized | MARTIN WREN, P.C. | LEAVE A COMMENT

Virginia Estate Lawyers

Challenging a will, also called contesting a will, is a formal objection as to the validity of a will. A will is often challenged when an interested party believes that the will is invalid in some way. Challenging a will is not an easy task, but it can be done.

Who can Challenge a Will

Only someone with “standing”, also known as an “interested person” can challenge a will. An interested person who is someone who:

  1. Is named on the face of the will (a beneficiary)
  2. Would benefit if the will was found invalid

Interested persons may include spouses, children, heirs, devisees, or anyone who may have a claim against the estate.

Grounds to Challenge a Will

Lack of Capacity

The law requires that the person creating a will has “testamentary capacity”. Testamentary capacity means that the person is an adult of at least 18 years old and has “the capacity in executing a will to understand the nature and extent of one’s property and how one is disposing of it and to recognize the natural objects of one’s bounty”.

An adult may have a lack of capacity due to dementia, insanity, or being under the influence of a substance. A will can be challenged on the grounds of lack of capacity if an interested person can show that the adult did not understand the consequences of making the will at the time the will was created.

Fraud/Forgery/Improper Influence

An interested person can challenge a will that they believe was created fraudulently, by means of forgery, or through manipulation.

Lack of Execution

Each state has their own laws, but generally a will must meet the following elements to be considered valid:

  1. The will is in writing (not verbal)
  2. The will is singed by the testator (the person who created the will)
  3. The testator’s signature is witnessed and attested by two non-interested persons
  4. The will is signed and stamped by a notary

If a will lacks any of the above elements, it becomes susceptible to challenge.

Probate court

In most states, you challenge a will by filing a petition with a probate specific court. Probate courts specialize in the assets and debts of deceased people and the issue that arise from administering their estates. The petition must be filed in a probate court that has jurisdiction of the deceased’s estate and can involve specific deadlines and rules for the challenger.


More and more wills are including “no-contest clauses”. A no-contest clause automatically disinherits any person who challenges the validity of the will.  So, challenging a will just because you think your inheritance should be higher could potentially cost you all of your inheritance per the no-contest clause.

If you are considering challenging a will, contact a lawyer, today to learn more about the pros and cons of challenging a will.



Contact Our Virginia Lawyers

We serve clients throughout Virginia — from Charlottesville and Central Virginia to metropolitan Richmond; Harrisonburg and the Shenandoah Valley to Roanoke; and the cities of Hampton Roads to the Northern Virginia cities of  Fairfax, Alexandria and Arlington.

To speak with one of our attorneys, please call us at (434) 817-3100.

Our Virginia personal injury lawyers at MartinWren, P.C. have a statewide practice and offer free consultations at a time and location that is convenient for you.  We will gladly meet with you at your home or at the hospital, even on nights and weekends.


Disclaimer: Using this contact form or any page of MartinWren, P.C.’s website does not establish an attorney-client relationship.  Please do not submit any confidential, privileged, or other protected information until and unless you have completed a private consultation with a MartinWren, P.C. attorney, the attorney has informed you that no conflict of interest exists, and the attorney notifies you that the firm can take your case. By completing this form you agree that we can follow up with you by phone, email, or by text messaging.

    *Please enter your initials to acknowledge that you have read and understood the Disclaimer above:

    To schedule a free consultation with a personal injury lawyer, please call us at (434) 817-3100.

    latest firm news