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On what grounds can a person contest a will?

Bothell, WA |

My Grandmother became a Jehovah Witness about 20 years ago. We have always been close to her, but her religion put a strain on our relationship, but we never allowed it to keep us away. 11 years ago she changed her will writing everyone in the family out of the will and giving all of her money and possessions to the church. She is very ill and we were just now allowed to see the will. She claims that family was negligent and absent from her life. We have pictures and letters proving how false that is. Do we have the right to contest the will?

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Attorney answers 4


Technically, anyone can contest a will to be honest. However, you need a really good reason to actually go through with it for a couple reasons. First and foremost, there needs to be some wrongdoing. Someone had to exercise undue influence or trick your mother or something of that nature. Generally, people are absolutely allowed to write people out of a will if for no other reason than they want to. If she just wants to give all her money to her church, she can. The other reason you need to think long and hard before contesting a will is that it is very expensive. Most attorneys who do will contests will want a large amount of money up front. One last thing to consider is that the threshold for having capacity to make a will is very, very low in Washington.

I hope that helps.

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I agree with my colleague. Your grandmother expressed how she feels. You disagree. This is not grounds for the court to set aside a will.

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The issue is of capacity at the time the document was executed. If she had capacity and was free from undue influence, you will not be successful in challenging on a claim of mistaken. Also, as long as she has capacity, the will is not set in stone. She is free to change it now or revoke it. That is her choice. Also, her feelings of negligence and absent are not something for which there is a standard to measure by. Its her definition of negligence or absence that matters, not yours.

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It sounds like your grandmother is still alive, so no challenge to the will can be brought until after she passes away. Will contests are governed by Washington law, and must be brought within 4 months from the date the Will is admitted to probate. See RCW 11.24.010 (link provided below)

Generally, a will may be challenged for (1) issues regarding whether the deceased was competent to make a last will and testament, (2) whether the execution of the last will and testament was properly done by the deceased (was the will valid), (3) whether the deceased executed the last will and testament under restraint or undue influence or fraudulent representations.

It is not possible to advise you whether an effort to contest the will might be possible based on the limited information provided. However, because of the relatively short time frame permitted for bringing a will contest you are best advised to seek the advise of a capable attorney sooner than later if you wish to consider this matter further.

The above response is commentary regarding a general legal question. It is not intended to be legal advice specific to the reader's individual situation nor does it create an attorney-client relationship between the author and any reader. You are encouraged to contact a qualified and knowledgeable attorney to discuss your specific legal situation.