Pittsburgh Will Contest Attorneys
40+ Years of Helping Clients Plan for Their Futures in Armstrong, Allegheny, Beaver, Washington, Butler, Westmoreland Counties
If you are looking for a will contest attorney in Pittsburgh, Herb & Winters Law is the right law firm for you. For over 40 years, Herb & Winters Law has proudly serve the Greater Pittsburgh Area with will contest matters. Our Pittsburgh will contest attorneys have experience defending will contests and prosecuting will contests, so whether you are defending a will contest or are thinking about challenging a will via a will contest – schedule a consultation with Herb & Winters Law today.
Contesting a Will in Pittsburgh
For a will contest in Pittsburgh, the party challenging the will generally has the burden of proof.
During a Pittsburgh will contest, a will may be contested based on, but not limited to, any of the following grounds:
- Lack of Capacity: A testator (person who had will written up) must have the appropriate mental capacity in order for a will to be valid. In order for a will to be valid, the testator must: (1) be able to understand the extent of their assets; (2) be able to understand the nature of their assets; and (3) be aware of the parties to whom the assets will be distributed. If a testator lacks testamentary capacity, then a will can be declared void.
- Undue Influence: A will can be declared void due to undue influence. Generally, the easiest way to prove undue influence is by proving three elements: (1) weakened intellect on the part of the testator; (2) person who is proponent of will received a substantial benefit; and (3) the proponent of the challenge will stood in what is called a confidential relationship with the testator.
- Fraud: A will can be declared void on the basis of fraud. Fraud can present itself in multiple different ways. Fraud could be committed by someone who makes fraudulent statements to the testator to get them to change their current will to make a new will. Fraud could be committed by someone who presents a will to the testator (who didn’t actually read it) and the person presenting the will tells the testator that it says one thing, but in reality the will said something completely different. Fraud could also be committed where a person presents what is actually a will to the testator for signature, but the person presenting this will tells the testator it is a different type of document to trick them into signing the will.
- Forgery: A will can be declared void on the basis of forgery. Forgery can occur when someone fakes the signature of the testator on the will. There are certain statutory exceptions where someone can sign on behalf of the testator if directed by the testator and other requirements are satisfied. However, if someone fakes the signature of the testator without the testator’s direction, such constitutes forgery.
- Improper Execution: A will must be properly signed by the testator. If this requirement is not met, then the will could be declared void.
- Contract to Make a Will or Contract Not to Make a Will: If certain requirements are satisfied, you can make a contract in Pennsylvania that someone either will make a will or will not make (or change) a will. If such a contract will exists, then you can attempt to enforce that contract against the Estate and enforce your contractual rights thereunder. If such a valid contract exists, then the terms of the contract should be respected.
- Photocopy of Will: The admission of a photocopy of a will may be challenged. If the original will is not found, then there is a presumption that the original will was destroyed by the testator during their lifetime and therefore the will is invalid. However, this presumption may be overcome by the proponent of the photocopy of the will by showing clear and convincing evidence that the will was not revoked. If the photocopy of the will is not admitted to probate, then the testator’s property will pass either via a prior will (if one is valid and exists) or pass via the intestacy statute.
- Discovery of Later Will: If a will that was discovered that was executed at a more recent date than the current will admitted to probate, then if you can prove the more recent will is valid then the more recent will could apply. In such a case, the testator’s property would be distributed based upon the more recent will rather than what was stated under the older will.
If you have questions about a will contestant, then you should not delay and be sure to call a Pittsburgh will contest attorney from Herb & Winters Law today!
Who can File a Will Contest in Pittsburgh?
You can only challenge a will if you are considered an ‘Interested Person’ which is a statutory term. An Interested Person could include the following (but not necessarily limited to):
- Family Members: Family members that would be entitled to receive a share in the Decedent’s property (the person who died) if the will was set aside and would then pass via the intestacy statute. Our Pittsburgh will contest attorneys can help you determine whether you qualify to challenge a will as an intestate heir under the Pennsylvania intestacy statute.
- Beneficiaries Under Will: If you are a named beneficiary under the current will, a subsequent will (older than current will), or the immediate prior will (the next oldest will compared to the current will).
- Party to Contract: If you made a contract with the Decedent to make a will and the Decedent either did not make a will or did not make a will that complied with the contract, you would qualify as an interested person. If you made a contract with the Decedent to either not make a will or to not change a will, you would qualify as an interested person.
- Trustee: If you are considered a trustee (fiduciary) under the prior will, then you may qualify as an interested person. Generally, a trustee is only created under a will where a person is given discretion how to distribute a devise (like who gets it or the amounts that certain persons will get).
In instances where there are multiple prior wills, whether you have standing to file a will contest would require review by a will contest attorney.
What is the Timeframe to Contest a Will Contest in Pittsburgh?
Generally, the timeframe for a will contest is 12 months under 20 Pa.C.S. § 908 from the time that the will was admitted to probate. However, it is possible that this timeframe can be shortened all the way down to 3 months from the time that the will was admitted to probate.
There are some narrow exceptions to extend the time for a will contest; however, you want to be as cautious as possible and be sure that a will contest is filed within the timeframe prescribed by statute.
Because there are strict-time deadlines involved with will contests, it is highly important that you do not delay and call Pittsburgh will contest attorneys from Herb & Winters Law today.
Call our Pittsburgh Will Contest Attorneys Near You
In short, Pittsburgh will contest attorneys at Herb & Winters Law can assist you with your will contest. Be proactive and schedule a consultation today with the Pittsburgh will contest attorneys at Herb & Winters Law today, so that you can start getting answers to your legal questions.