When an Indiana resident passes away, their estate in most cases goes through the probate process. During probate, the decedent’s last will and testament is verified, and the estate’s debts are settled. If the will is contested by one of the beneficiaries, a beneficiary named in a previous will or one of the decedent’s family members, other interested parties must be notified. The people who contest wills are often surprised by how many interested parties there can be.
Under Indiana law, the beneficiaries named in a decedent’s will and beneficiaries named in a previous will but not named in the current will are all interested parties when a will is contested. The decedent’s surviving family members are also interested parties even if they are not named in the will. When a will is contested, the probate process is put on hold until all of the interested parties have been notified about the litigation.
Interested parties are usually reluctant to join will contests unless there is evidence that suggests the will is defective in some way. To prevail, the party contesting a will must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that:
- The will was not properly executed
- The will is a forgery
- The will was written under duress or undue influence
- The decedent was not of sound mind when they wrote the will
- The decedent was tricked into signing the will
When a will is contested, all interested parties must be notified. Many of the incorrect assumptions and misunderstandings that give rise to will contests can be avoided by frank communication and prudent estate planning. Individuals who fear that their wishes could give rise to disputes may incorporate trusts into their estate plans to avoid probate and prevent will contests.