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Spokane Estate & Probate Lawyers / Blog / Estate Planning / Can You Contest a Will in Washington State?

Can You Contest a Will in Washington State?


When making a last will and testament, you generally have the right to dispose of your property to whomever you wish. Of course, some of your friends or family may be disappointed by your choices. Could such disappointment lead them to contest your will after you die?

While stories about contested wills make for good drama, in reality will contests are quite rare. As long as a will is properly executed in accordance with Washington law, there are usually no valid grounds for a contest. With that in mind, here are some answers to common questions about will contests and how they actually work.

Who Can Contest a Will?

A person must have legal standing to file a will contest. This basically means they must have some financial interest in the distribution of the probate estate. For example, a disinherited child who would otherwise inherit from their parent’s estate would have standing to contest the parent’s will. So would a beneficiary named in a previous will that was later superseded by the will admitted to probate.

What Is the Deadline for Contesting a Will?

Washington law requires a petitioner to file a contest within 4 months of the will’s admission to probate. The courts enforce this deadline strictly. If the petitioner acts even 1 day past the 4-month deadline, the judge will almost certainly dismiss the contest regardless of its merits.

What Are the Actual Grounds for Invalidating the Will

It is critical to understand that a will is not invalid simply because the petitioner disagrees with how the testator chose to dispose of their property. For instance, a disinherited child cannot sustain a will contest based on the fact their mother chose to leave their entire estate to a sibling. Rather, a will contest must be based on some legal defect in the execution of the will itself, such as:

  • the will was not signed by the testator in the presence of at least 2 witnesses;
  • the witnesses failed to sign the will in the presence of the testator and one another;
  • the decedent lacked the capacity to make the will at the time of execution–i.e., they were “not of sound mind”;
  • the decedent only signed the will because of the undue influence or coercion of another person; or
  • the decedent revoked the will prior to their death.

Again, the burden of proof is on the person contesting the will to prove it is invalid for at least one of the reasons described above.

Contact Moulton Law Offices Today

One way to discourage potential will contests is to include an actual “no contest” clause in your will. Such clauses effectively disinherit anyone who tries to challenge your will in court, assuming they were left something in the first place. Another way is to ensure that you engage the help of a qualified estate planning attorney. The attorney is typically the best witness in protecting against a contest. A qualified Spokane estate planning lawyer can advise you further on this and other topics related to making a will. Contact Moulton Law Offices, P.S., today to schedule a free consultation. We serve clients throughout the Spokane Valley, Kennewick, and Yakima area.



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