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What To Do If You’re Left Out Of a Will

Were you unexpectedly left out of your parents' Will? We explain your rights, and share some options for taking action.

Patrick Hicks

Patrick Hicks, @PatrickHicks

Head of Legal, Trust & Will

If a child is left out of a Will, can they contest it? Often, the answer is yes. If you were unexpectedly (and you believe unintentionally or inappropriately) left out of your parents’ Will, you do have the option of contesting it. But to be successful, a few things need to ring true. Here, we’re covering what grounds can be used to successfully contest your parents’ Will.  

Grounds for Contesting a Will 

If you can prove any of the following grounds, your chances of contesting a Will and having it overturned become increasingly more likely to succeed. 

Not Explicit

If you’re not explicitly excluded in your parents’ Will, it’s very likely the courts may presume that you were inadvertently left out. Likewise, if you were born after their Will was executed, a probate court can rule that you’re entitled to your share of the assets and property in the Will. This may be one of the easiest grounds to prove that your parents’ Will is not valid. 

However, if the Will has any language that clearly, directly or explicitly writes you out of an inheritance, the chances of you “winning” your case significantly reduces.

Undue Influence or Duress

If you believe a parent was under undue influence or duress at the time they were creating and/or signing their Will, you may have a good case to successfully contest it.

Undue Influence: Being under undue influence means at the time of creating and signing the Will, one or both parents were either psychologically or mentally influenced by someone they thought they could trust. 

Duress: Signing a Will under duress means one or both of your parents felt they didn’t have any other option but to sign the Will without naming you as a beneficiary. Duress could be due to coercion or fear of repercussion or bodily harm.  

Not of Sound Mind

Finally, if you believe either (or both) of your parents were lacking capacity or they weren’t of sound mind, you may be able to convince the court that their Will isn’t valid. Keep in mind, you’ll need to provide clear evidence and proof that demonstrates, without a doubt, the Will was signed by someone who wasn’t capable of making sound decisions.

While the burden of proof can be challenging to present, if you’re able to demonstrate a lack of capacity, there is a chance the Will could be overturned.

How Can I Contest a Will?

If you truly believe you’re within your rights to contest your parents’ Will, you can start the process of contesting it in the courts. But before you begin, make sure you have legal standing to actually do so. This means you need to have been a potential beneficiary and have a rightful claim to some or all of the estate (for example, you’re a biological child of the decedent). 

Also, you need to have grounds. Contesting a Will “just because you don’t like it” is not valid and would ultimately be rejected.

For more about how to contest a Will, check out our in-depth article: Contesting a Will: A Complete How-To Guide 

If you do decide to go through the process, be prepared for an arduous, complicated and often stressful journey. You should be mentally prepared for the challenge before you move forward. 

It can be a terrible feeling to think you might not receive what’s rightfully yours. If you feel you’ve got grounds to successfully contest your parents’ Will, remember you have options. Your first step should be to arm yourself with the knowledge of your rights and the process you’ll need to go through to have the Will overturned. 

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