The 'will contest' procedure in Missouri: Part I

According to Missouri probate laws, a will is considered binding if it is not challenged within a period of six months from either the date of probate, the date when a probate court rejects the petition or the date when the court issues the first notice of granting letters on the deceased person's estate, whichever is the latest.

In some cases, it may be possible for an heir, trustee or beneficiary of the estate to contest the will by filing a petition with the county's circuit court clerk or request the court to pass a will through probate before will execution.

In the event of a will contest, a probate judge will first see if the challenger is a minor or a mentally unstable individual. In that case, the probate judge will assign a guardian ad litem for that minor or that individual. The petition for the will contest must be filed within six months, as mandated by Missouri probate laws.

It must be noted that it is not necessary to file the petition jointly, and that petitions for a will contest can be filed by individuals as well. However, in that case, people who are not part of the will contest have no right to the estate thereafter.

Once the petition is filed, the circuit court clerk informs the probate division immediately and forwards a copy of the petition to that division within a period of 10 days.

If, for some reason, the probate judge rejects the petition for will contest, the case is transferred to another judge of the circuit court but with the consent of the first judge. All will contests in the state are governed by Missouri Rules of Civil Procedure and the provisions of the Civil Code of Missouri.

Source: moga.mo.gov, "Will binding, when--contest of will, when, procedure," accessed Feb. 4, 2015

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