The will contest procedure in Missouri: Part II

The previous post on this blog discussed some of the basics of the will contest procedure in Missouri. Once the matter has entered probate court, it does not end. The state's probate laws require that a petitioner comply with certain rules and regulations before a final judgment is made.

In any will contest, a petitioner must send a notice of initial hearing to all defendants listed in the petition. If a petitioner cannot notify all defendants within 90 days of the date the petition is filed, the court will reject the petition at the petitioner's expense. If the delay is for legitimate reasons, the court may show leniency.

After these steps have been completed, the petition becomes the sole point of dispute between the petitioner and defendant or defendants. The matter then goes before a jury or court for a decision. Whether a jury is required is a question the parties involved must answer. The verdict issued by either a jury or a court is considered final unless the court wants a new trial or petitioner wants to appeal.

A petitioner can also withdraw the will contest action voluntarily after the period of contest is over provided all parties involved agree to it. However, even if all parties to a will contest formally agree to a compromise and case dismissal, a court may not consider it a compromise that requires its approval.

Note that if a will contest is voluntarily dismissed or dismissed because of failure to notify in time, a probate judge can continue estate administration and will execution according to the previous order by either passing the will through probate or rejecting it. Whether a petition for will contest was ever filed with the circuit court clerk will then have no bearing on a court's decision.

Source: MOGA.MO.gov, "Will binding, when--contest of will, when, procedure," Accessed on Feb. 11, 2015

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