What to do as executor if someone challenges a will

As the executor of someone’s will, it is not your job to give opinions on the rights or wrongs of the deceased’s wishes or try to correct things you see as unfair. Your role is to merely carry out the wishes laid out in their will.

What do you do, however, if someone else challenges the will? Here are some suggestions:

  1. Do not disburse anything to the heirs for now. You will probably not be able to do anything with the deceased’s assets until this issue is settled.
  2. Hire an attorney to help you defend the deceased’s will. The fees for this attorney will be paid out of the estate, not your own pocket.
  3. File a response to the complaint. Your attorney will prepare all of the necessary paperwork, but you should make sure that you are comfortable with the position the estate takes.
  4. Talk to any witnesses. You may need to speak to the attorney who drafted the will, the deceased’s physician (to establish that they were of sound mind) and others who have personal knowledge of the issues at hand.
  5. Gather up all the documents you may need. Start to organize all the financial records and other information that you think may eventually be needed in court.

Finally, take a big step back, emotionally. You do not make the final decision on a disputed estate.  That’s ultimately up to the court. Try to avoid being drawn into any personal battles. Executing a will is not always easy, but that is something you accept when you agree to become an executor.