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What happens when a will is contested

Sometimes, a person who has been appointed executor of a Georgia testator's will may face a challenge to the document. There is a limited time period in which to mount a challenge, but as long as that parameter is observed, the executor must then take a series of steps in response.

First, the executor should contact the attorney who prepared the will. This attorney can act as a witness to defend the will but cannot handle the case. There might be other attorneys in the same practice who can, or the executor may need to find another attorney. The estate and not the executor pays for attorney fees in this circumstance. The attorney can assist the executor in filing an answer to the complaint.

Usually, a will challenge is filed on the basis of mental incapacity or undue influence. Therefore, the next step for the executor is usually to find others who can testify to the sound mind of the will's creator. This would include any witnesses to the will, the testator's physician, and any friends or family members who were around the will's testator at the time it was made. The attorney may also be able to help in organizing financial records and expert witnesses if necessary.

There are steps a person may be able to take while in the estate planning process to make successful challenges to a will less likely. Communicating openly with family members about the contents of the will and the reasons for the estate planning decisions made can help prevent unpleasant surprises. The possibility of a challenge to the will can also be a good reason to work with an attorney in preparing a will in the first place. The attorney may be able to help ensure that the correct legal language is used throughout.

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