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What can I do if I'm left out of a will?

The media frequently airs dirty laundry about celebrities who exclude their closest family members in their estate plans. For example, Jerry Lewis famously and intentionally excluded six of his children in his will. Mickey Rooney and Tony Curtis also disinherited their biological children in wills that were created just weeks prior to their deaths.

As expected, those left out inheritances filed lawsuits contesting the content of their fathers' wills. What you don't hear about, however, is all cases involving will contests by non-famous people.

Common reasons for challenging a will

There are a number of reasons that you may wish to contest the validity of a will, including:

  • The testator (the person making the will) lacked the mental capacity to understand the consequences of what he or she was doing at the time.
  • The testator was under the age of 18.
  • The testator was subjected to "undue influence" by someone else.
  • The will was obtained by fraud, forgery or manipulation.
  • The will was not prepared properly, i.e. it was not signed by the testator, there were no witnesses, etc.
  • The will being probated is not the most current will.

Contesting a will in Colorado

If you suspect that there is something fishy about the circumstances under which a loved one created his or her will, or you do not think the will is valid, seek the assistance of an experienced estate planning attorney.

First, a lawyer can help you establish:

  • Whether you are an "interested party" to the lawsuit
  • Whether you have a valid reason to contest the provisions in a loved one's will
  • Whether the outcome -- should you win -- is worth the amount of time, energy and money you will need to spend in order to prevail

Then, you will need to file a petition in probate court addressing your relationship to the testator and your reasons for contesting the will. It may not be easy to win, but the final outcome may help you rest easy knowing that you helped fulfill your loved one's true wishes.

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