As a child, relative or heir of a deceased person, you may be concerned that the will of the decedent was fraudulently executed. The signature may appear wrong, the decedent may have been suffering from dementia at the time of the signing of the will, or the will may have left a substantial sum to a paid caregiver such that you feel the will was signed under duress or intimidation. Under these circumstances, you may question the validity of the will in court by filing a will contest action. The time limit to file a will contest varies from state to state.
In Alabama, if you are an heir or devisee who would have a valid interest in the estate of a deceased, you may file a will contest action in probate court any time after the will has been presented to the probate judge for filing but prior to the judge signing the order admitting it to probate. Once the will has been admitted to probate by order entered by the judge, you will generally only have six months in which to contest the will. The six-month time period may be extended to twelve months from the date of the appointment of a guardian-ad-litem for minors or mentally incapacitated persons who were not originally represented in the probate or from the date of the removal of their incapacity or disability.
In Texas, you may only contest a will for up to two years after it is admitted to probate. If fraud can be proven, however, the time frame changes to two years after discovery of the fraudulent act. Also, a minor or incapacitated person will have two years after they either reach the age of majority or regain capacity in which to contest a will in Texas.
In Michigan, there is no time limit to contest a will provided it was admitted through an informal probate proceeding. Most wills are admitted through the informal probate process, provided complex matters don’t require a formal probate. In a formal probate proceeding, however, you are required to contest the will within 21 days from its admission.
Washington has a very strict statute of limitations requiring that you contest the will within four months after its being admitted to probate. The courts will not extend this time frame even if fraud can be proven. In Florida, you only have 90 days from the date of receipt of the notice of administration after admission of the will to contest. If, however, a will has not yet been admitted to probate and a formal notice of administration is received, the time period is shortened to 20 days. Consult with an estate attorney in the state where the probate is taking place to ensure that your will contest action is filed timely.
- FreeWillDocs: Contesting the Will
- The Code of Alabama 1975, Section 43-8-199: Contest in circuit court after admission to probate – Generally
- San Antonio Express-News: Will Contest Statute of Limitations
- Calhoun County, Michigan: What is the statute of limitations on contesting a will?
- Femminineo Attorneys, PLLC: Probate Administration
- Washington (State) Probate: Filing a Will Contest --- Initial Hurdles to Overcome
Marie Murdock has been employed in the legal and title insurance industries for over 25 years. Murdock was first published in print in 1979 and has been writing online articles since mid-2010. Her articles have appeared on LegalZoom and various other websites.