You must be an heir or a beneficiary of the deceased to have standing to contest a will. An heir is someone who would inherit under state intestacy laws if the decedent had died without a will, which generally includes her spouse, children, parents and siblings. A beneficiary is someone she named in her will, even if only to disinherit.
Determine if you have legitimate grounds to contest. You cannot do so simply because you don’t like the terms of the will and believe you should have received more. You will have to prove either that someone coerced or threatened the decedent into writing the will the way he did, leaving you less than a fair share, or that the will is a fake, forgery or otherwise fraudulent. Alternatively, you could also make a claim that the decedent wasn’t mentally competent at the time he made the will.
Read More: Can an Heir Be Deleted From a Property Inheritance?
File a petition objecting to the will with the Probate Court in the county in which the will has been entered into probate. This is usually the county where the decedent lived.
Mail notice of your petition to all the decedent’s possible heirs, beneficiaries and anyone who might have an interest in the estate, such as the decedent’s creditors. You must then file a proof of mailing with the court attesting that you have done this. In some cases, the court might require you to publish notice in a newspaper as well.
Exchange discovery with any attorneys, heirs or beneficiaries who file a response with the court in response to your petition. This means giving them copies of all documents, recordings and other evidence you plan to use at trial to prove your case. They must also give to you copies of all the evidence they plan to use to refute your claim. You will now have an idea of how strong your case is and what your chances are for winning the contest. It is usually during this period when negotiations take place to try to settle the matter without going to trial.
Proceed to trial if negotiations are unsuccessful. You can still reach a settlement with the other beneficiaries or heirs during the process of the trial, but a judge will have the final say if you do not.
If the decedent foresaw that you would object to his will, he might have included a provision penalizing you if you do so. For instance, if you contest the will and you lose, you would not even receive what little he did bequeath you. Such a provision only has teeth if he did not disinherit you entirely, however. Under Section 524.2-517 of Minnesota's statutes, if you have probable cause or a legitimate reason for contesting the will, the provision would be unenforceable. It would be up to a judge to decide if your objection is reasonable or far-fetched.
Hire an attorney or consult with one. Probate law can be tricky and you will either have to have a firm understanding of court rules and Minnesota’s probate statutes or you will need to rely on someone who does.
Beverly Bird is a practicing paralegal who has been writing professionally on legal subjects for over 30 years. She specializes in family law and estate law and has mediated family custody issues.