Being left out of a loved one’s will after assuming or being told you would be included can be a devastating blow from both a personal and financial standpoint.

However, many times when a person dies and their final wishes come to light, some survivors are shocked to find out they have been excluded.

Contesting a will can be an uphill battle

If you are not included in someone’s will and believe you should dispute it, understand that doing so isn’t easy and take these considerations into account:

  • Be sure that challenging the will makes financial sense where the potential gain outweighs the legal costs
  • Be sure you are emotionally up to the challenge as the process can be long and stressful
  • To successfully contest a will, you must prove there was coercion, fraud or diminished mental capacity involved
  • Talk to an attorney about the likelihood of getting the will invalidated
  • Consider mediation instead of a court battle

Get a copy of the will

If you believe you were excluded from a will due to duress placed on the benefactor or their reduced mental capacity, ask the executor for the current document and any previous versions to determine whether there were any significant changes.

If you were unaware of the contents before the will entered probate, you can get a copy from the probate court. In Oregon, you have four months to file a challenge after you receive word of the will or other information, such as a probate notice.

Decide whether to file a contest

If you receive a copy of the will and decide you want to mount a legal challenge, seek an experienced estate litigation lawyer who can listen to your reasons and help you determine whether it’s a winnable case.

If you do have a valid argument, your attorney will file a legal contest – the goal is to proceed to a hearing where a judge will invalidate the current will and enforce a previous version in which you were named as a beneficiary.

Consider an alternative approach

If you are concerned about the costs of a protracted fight in court, that could drain your resources as well as those of the estate, talk to your attorney about the possibility of entering into mediation with the estate, which could provide a faster and less expensive resolution than litigation.