In Georgia, not just anyone can contest a will. You must have legal standing to so, meaning the outcome of the probate process directly affects you. The parties who typically have legal standing are beneficiaries of the will, beneficiaries in previous wills and creditors. If the decedent did not name you as a beneficiary, you might still be recognized as an heir according to Georgia’s intestacy laws.
As an heir-at-law, you could stand to inherit if someone is able to prove that the will is invalid. Therefore, you also have legal standing to contest it. Any party with a financial interest in a will could challenge it as long as they have legitimate grounds.
The grounds to contest a will
Contesting a will is a complex and lengthy legal process that can negatively affect multiple parties, so it is only natural that your grounds justify the entire ordeal. The law recognizes several reasons why a will may not be valid:
- Undue influence: If you suspect someone manipulated the deceased into altering the will for their benefit, that is undue influence. This often involves taking advantage of a person who may be vulnerable due to illness or age.
- Lack of capacity: At the time of the will’s creation, the testator (the person whose will it is) must have been of sound mind. They should have understood the implications of the will, known the nature and extent of their property and recognized the heirs to that property.
- Improper execution: Georgia law has specific requirements for executing a will. If the will does not meet these legal standards – for example, lacking the necessary witnesses – it might be invalid.
- Fraud: Should evidence suggest that the will’s execution resulted from deception, false statements or misinformation, there could be grounds to allege fraud.
If you believe a will is contestable based on any of the grounds mentioned, you must act swiftly.
The legal time frame
Time is of the essence when contesting a will. In Georgia, you typically have a specific period after the will is admitted to probate to file a caveat, which is a formal objection. Missing this window can mean forfeiting your right to contest.
The probate process begins when an executor or interested party submits the will to the probate court. Once the court admits the will, they will issue a notice that the will is in probate. From this point, you have 13 months to file a caveat, although the exact timing can vary depending on the case’s specifics.
It is crucial to understand when and how you can contest a will to protect your loved one’s legacy and your rightful inheritance.