Before going to court, it is necessary to have standing to be involved in the case as one of the first prerequisites of success. Every classification of legal proceeding has its own requirements as to standing.
If you wish to successfully file objections to the probate of a will, it is necessary to have standing to intervene in the action. The main key to whether or not you have standing in this situation is whether or you would benefit if there were no will at all.
If you are not mentioned in a will, but there is a still-existing and provable prior will in which you are named , then you would have standing to file objections to the later will which did not mention you as a legatee. In this example, if the will is successfully challenged and ruled invalid, the prior will could then be introduced and -assuming it passed muster�could be admitted to probate and you would receive whatever benefits were provided for you in that instrument.
Next of kin of the testator of a will also have the right to object. Should the will be overturned, all members of the closest class of blood-relatives will share equally in the estate. An example of this is where a parent disinherits his children who would all have standing to object to the will. Since only the decedent’s children would inherit if there were no will in this situation, brothers or sisters of the decedent (who would have no rights here if children were alive —or if there were living grandchildren of predeceased children) would have no standing to file objections on their own.
There is always the friend or neighbor of the decedent who steps forward with a claim of some sort of promise to “take care” him or her in some way. Except in the rarest of circumstances, these folks should simply save their money and not bother to find their way to court. In the event that, for any reason, the will in this example were to be invalidated, the assets of the estate would pass to the next of kin by intestacy and the non-related objectant would receive nothing. Since this person therefore has no interest in the case, he or she would also have no standing to object to the will.
Sometimes during an estate proceeding, there may be a reason to intervene. Actions involving the estate or its fiduciaries are generally limited to interested parties such as legatees mentioned in the will or distributees in an administration proceeding where there is no will. Others such as trustees, guardians or creditors will also generally have standing to commence an action or file a petition involving the estate.
On occasion, a person who might seem to have a right to become involved in an estate proceeding actually lacks standing to do so. An example of this might be a parent of a deceased child who was married at the time of his or her death. Unless actually named as an interested party in the will, it would be unlikely at all that the father or mother of the decedent would have any standing since the decedent’s surviving spouse would, in all likelihood be the one with the primary –if not the only– interest in the estate.
Whether or not you have standing to become involved in some phase of an estate proceeding is a technical question which you should not attempt to answer yourself. Be sure to consult your attorney before deciding on your own that you lack standing.