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Wills, Trusts, and Estates Blog

Challenging a Will in PA: A Recent Case Summary

By Alexander Magid, Esq. on 2/7/13 9:10 AM

Probate lawyer Norristown PA Will ContestA Will contest in the Montgomery County, PA Orphan’s Court, located in Norristown, PA, usually occurs when an individual such as a close family member is unhappy with the distribution of assets set forth in the decedent’s Last Will & Testament.  In other words, the family member usually receives nothing or very little.  Parties seeking to contest a Will or Executors of the estate faced with defending a Will contest claim in Montgomery County, PA should hire a probate lawyer who is familiar with the Orphan’s Court process and procedure in Norristown, PA.    

In order to bring a Will contest claim in PA, the general rule is that a person must have “standing.”  Standing is the legal right to bring a lawsuit to court.  A probate lawyer can challenge the issue of standing if defending a Will contest claim.  A recent Philadelphia Orphans’ Court case provides an illustration of the issue of standing and how it can affect a person’s right to bring a Will contest claim.

In the case of Dupont Will, 2 Fiduc.Rep.3d.238 (O.C. Div. Philadelphia 2012), the PA Court was asked to examine a set of facts and make a determination as to whether the claimants had legal standing.  In that case, a niece and nephew of the decedent received nothing under the decedent’s Will.  The unhappy niece and nephew brought a Will contest claim, hoping to prove that the Will was invalid.  The Court determined that the niece and nephew did not have standing to bring the claim.  In its decision, the Court stated that a person has standing to bring a Will contest claim when he or she is “substantially, immediately, and directly” injured due to the probate of the Will.  An injury in this situation means that a person’s share of an estate would be smaller if the Will was probated or bigger if the Will was not probated. 

In the Dupont decision, the Court confirmed that the Will left the niece and nephew nothing; however, the decedent had two (2) prior Wills that also gave the niece and nephew nothing.  Therefore, even if the most recent Will was deemed invalid, if one of the prior Wills was probated, the niece and nephew would still have nothing.  The Court also looked at the niece and nephew’s share of the intestate estate if all three (3) Wills were deemed invalid.  The Court determined that the contingent shares that the niece and nephew would receive under the PA intestacy rules were deemed to be too remote to confer upon them the standing to bring a claim.  Therefore, the Court determined that the niece and nephew did not suffer an injury due to the probate of the Will and therefore did not have standing to bring a claim. 

The Dupont case illustrates a basic principle – a person must show that the Will probate would cause a person to be “substantially, immediately, and directly” injured.  If he or she would receive something substantially more if a prior Will was probated or under the PA Intestacy Law, then he or she is likely to have standing to contest the validity of a current Will. 

These matters can be complex.  A qualified probate lawyer in Norristown, PA should always be consulted for experience and expertise in these matters before the Montgomery County, PA Orphan’s Court.  Located in Blue Bell, PA, The Martin Law Firm represents individuals who want to bring Will contest claims in the Orphan’s Court in Norristown, PA.  The Martin Law Firm also represents Executors who are challenged with a Will contest claim.

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