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Can an estranged relative contest a will or interfere in probate?

On Behalf of | May 1, 2023 | Probate Litigation

When family relationships sour, estrangement between parties may occur. Bitter feelings and acrimony can increase when a family member dies due to disputes over the estate.

Though conscientious individuals may create a will in hopes of eliminating such contention, estranged relatives might still dispute the arrangement and raise legal challenges that complicate the process.

Who might have rights to an estate in Florida?

Florida follows the common practice of awarding assets to the surviving spouse. If the deceased had biological or legally adopted children, those descendants would share the estate evenly with the surviving spouse. However, stepchildren, foster kids and children whom a parent gave up for adoption do not have inheritance rights.

In the absence of a spouse or children, Florida gives the property to the next of kin. The courts check for surviving siblings, parents and grandparents in succession. Such individuals can involve themselves in probate depending on the circumstances.

Who has legal standing for a will contest?

A person may leave a will that outlines different arrangements for the division of the property. Anyone with a legal interest in the probate proceedings who disagrees with the contents may bring a will contest. Such individuals include heirs, beneficiaries and creditors of the deceased.

Complications may arise when estranged family members who are not typically in the line of succession had business dealings with or extended credit to the deceased. This interest in the estate could give such persons the right to contest the will.

While will contests can be time-consuming and expensive, anyone with the resources and legal standing might do so and delay the distribution of an estate. As families create estate plans, they can make provisions to minimize the possibility of a contested will.