If you want to contest a will in Connecticut, the procedure is governed by the rules of the Connecticut Probate Code. Contesting a will is often an uphill battle as the law presumes that the deceased person, or decedent, intended the precise language in his estate-planning documents. However, there are several ways to challenge a decedent’s last will and testament if certain circumstances exist. Your case begins at the probate court in the jurisdiction where the will was entered for administration.
Typical Open Estate Period
In most cases, you must contest a will during the period in which the estate is “open.” An estate is officially opened when the executor, beneficiary or creditor of the decedent files a petition in the probate court where the decedent lived at the time of his death. An estate must be opened within 30 days of death. The creditor claims period is 150 days from the date a personal representative, or executor, is appointed by the court to administer the estate. However, this claims period may be extended for good cause. Because of the time it takes to compile and file an inventory of assets and debts, a probate case generally remains open for about a year -- although some more complex estates can take longer.
Persons Eligible to Contest a Will
Not just anyone can contest a will. To contest a will, you must have a personal interest in the outcome of the case. In legal terms, this is known as "standing." The court will likely find a party to have standing if he is considered an “heir at law,” which is any person who could inherit from the deceased under the laws of intestacy. This includes the spouse, parents, children and siblings. It can also include cousins, aunts, uncles or more distant relatives if the decedent left few survivors.
Reopening an Estate
To contest a will for an estate that has already closed, you have to petition the probate court to reopen the estate. In some situations, Connecticut law allows the probate court to reopen a closed estate at any time. In others, you must petition the court by giving solid reasons why the estate should not have been closed in the first place. These could include formality issues with the document itself or possible coercion by another beneficiary. The court may reopen a closed estate if it concludes it is in the interests of justice to do so.
Common Reasons to Contest a Will
To successfully contest a will, regardless of whether the estate is still open or closed, you must set forth provable facts that the will is invalid. One way to do this is to show that the will was not signed, witnessed or notarized according to state laws. Another way to successfully contest a will is to show that at the time the will was executed, the decedent was under undue influence by one of the beneficiaries, resulting in terms favoring that beneficiary. If you have concerns that the decedent was mentally incompetent at the time the will was executed, this could also serve as a successful argument to contest its validity.
- Czepiga Daly Pope: The Probate Process
- Connecticut Code: Decedents' Estates: Effect of Failure to Present a Claim
- Weatherby & Associates, PLC: Challenging a Connecticut Will
- Department of Justice: Summary of State Wrongful Death & Intestacy Statutes: Connecticut
- State of Connecticut: Probate Court Rules of Procedure
- Thinkstock/Stockbyte/Getty Images