Can I Challenge a Will or a Personal Representative Appointment in an Informal Probate?
For many people who are involved in estate disputes, such as a will contest or personal representative appointment, their first formal interaction with the dispute occurs when they receive a “Notice of Informal Probate” from the estate’s attorney. The informal probate process is the product of revisions to Massachusetts law that went into effect in 2012; it is designed to streamline the process of administering “uncontested” estates. Nonetheless, it is possible to initiate a will contest within an informal probate.
In order to challenge a will in an informal probate, you must file the will challenge within one year of the date of filing of the informal probate petition. So a critical first step is to determine the starting date for this one-year period.
A challenge to the nominated personal representative of the estate, however, cannot be made through informal probate; rather, such a challenge must be made through a petition for formal probate. In this case, there are two options:
- You can ask the estate’s attorney to file the petition for formal probate; or
- You can file a petition requesting formal probate yourself and ask the court to nominate a different personal representative. In this same petition, if the will is in question, you can also request that a prior will be admitted to probate (as opposed to the will that was filed with the informal probate petition).
Why It’s Generally Better to Convert an Informal Probate to a Formal Probate When There Are Estate Disputes
Keeping the case in an informal probate can lead to uncomfortable results; namely, you can end up being successful and having the proposed will voided, but having someone you do not trust as personal representative. For this reason I nearly always recommend going the formal probate route, where both will and personal representative issues can be resolved.