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Challenging a Will in Arizona

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When a person dies leaving a will, a petition for probate can be filed by the person in possession of the document or by anyone with an interest in the decedent’s estate. The probate court then assesses whether the will is valid and enforceable. This is a public proceeding and notice must be given to all heirs and potential claimants. Interested parties can challenge the will on a variety of grounds, which can lead to the will being nullified. The estate then passes according to the terms of a previous, valid will or by operation of Arizona’s intestacy laws. At Pennington Law, PLLC, our attorneys have ample experience in will challenges. We provide trustworthy, highly professional representation to challengers as well as to estate representatives and beneficiaries.

Contested wills in Arizona

Interested parties who can challenge a will in Arizona include beneficiaries of the will and parties who are legal heirs of the decedent, even if not named in the will. Arizona recognizes several grounds for declaring a will invalid, including:

  • Defective execution — Wills must be signed and witnessed. A witness must see the will’s maker (known as the testator) actually sign the document. Examining the signature on the document even seconds afterwards does not satisfy the requirement of witnessing.
  • Forgery — This means the will presented for probate was not executed by the testator.
  • Fraud — The testator may have been tricked into signing a will or including terms that do not reflect his or her true intentions.
  • Undue influence — Someone may have used emotional pressure, coercion or intimidation to cause the testator to make the will or to include certain provisions. This is a ploy often used by a testator’s caretaker or other close acquaintance to get a share of the estate, to the detriment of legitimate heirs.
  • Lack of capacity — The testator may not have been of sound mind when the will was executed. This is often an issue with elder testators who have mild dementia or “sundown syndrome.”

Any of these grounds can prompt the probate court to reject the will. The court may then rely on an earlier version of the will or may declare intestacy, which means proceeding as though the decedent had no will.

A will might also be unenforceable due to any one of these deficiencies:

  • The terms are too vague to give proper guidance — If the terms of the will are not clear and detailed, there can be confusion about which beneficiaries are to get which assets.
  • The will does not cover all assets — If the testator has not amended the will since opening a financial account or purchasing real estate, the will might not contain instructions for transferring those assets.
  • The will was not amended following a divorce —A will executed before a testator’s divorce probably left property to his or her spouse at the time and to children of that marriage. Unless amended, that will would not provide for the present spouse or for children subsequently born. Fortunately, Arizona law has statutes that give spouses and children inheritance rights outside the terms of the will.
  • The will disinherits a current spouse — Arizona law requires widow’s allowances and exemptions.

A major goal of estate planning is to avoid estate litigation. But few estates are so squarely arranged that no questions arise, especially when there is substantial wealth involved. If you are an heir or an estate representative, our attorneys can deliver the capable representation you need to resolve will challenges in a timely, cost-effective and equitable manner.

Contact an experienced Arizona will contest lawyer today

Pennington Law, PLLC represents clients in will contests in Surprise, Sun City West, Buckeye and vicinity. We provide trustworthy counsel and aggressive advocacy focused on positive results. Call 623-208-7867 or contact us online to schedule your free consultation.