When a Florida resident passes away, their estate will likely go through a process called probate. During probate, the last will and testament is validated and the estate’s creditors are paid before assets are distributed to the decedent’s heirs. Wills can be contested during probate, but only interested parties can mount a challenge. The parties that have standing to contest a will are the beneficiaries named in the will, the beneficiaries named in a previous will, and relatives not named in the will who would inherit property under Florida’s intestacy law if there was no will.
Contesting a will in Florida
Interested parties can contest a will in Florida if they have good reason to believe that the will is invalid because of fraud, undue influence or coercion. Wills are contested by filing a petition in probate court, and a judge will rule on the matter if the contesting party or parties cannot reach a settlement with the estate. When interested parties receive a Notice of Administration that informs them that the decedent has passed away, Florida law gives them only 90 days to contest the will. The permitted time is reduced to just 20 days if interested parties receive a Formal Notice of Petition for Administration.
Some testators try to avoid this type of estate litigation by including provisions in their wills that penalize parties who mount challenges. Wills that include penalty clauses are permitted in some parts of the country, but provisions that penalize will contests are not enforceable in Florida.
Will contests are often contentious disputes that tear families apart. When assets are placed in a trust, probate is not necessary and a will contest may be avoided. A pour over will may be needed to transfer any remaining assets into the trust when the grantor passes away, but these estate planning documents are rarely challenged as they have no named beneficiaries. If the remaining assets are valued at $75,000 or less, probate is simplified per Florida law.