Will Caveat Action: How To Contest A Will?

Will Caveat Action: How To Contest A Will?

A Will Caveat Action, otherwise known as a Will Contest or Caveat Action, can be among the most contentious type of litigation in the District of Columbia Probate Court. At the heart of every will caveat action there is a question as to the authenticity and validity of a decedent’s last will & testament.

Often clients will ask me, “ What circumstances lead to someone needing to file a caveat actions”? The answer…”If one of the heirs of a decedent’s estate feels they have been short-changed or otherwise slighted by getting less than they thought they deserved from the decedent, or by being left out of the will entirely, that heir may wish to challenge the validity of the will.”

For example, I can think back to a case I handled a few years ago where my client would tell me over and over again, “I was always told that I was going to receive the family beach house from my Dad, but I didn’t. It’s not fair, he told me he was leaving it to me! What can I do about this?”  The plain answer most of the time, “not much!”  If Dad told you one thing and did another in his last will and testament, unfortunately, it was Dad’s property, Dad devised it in his will the way he intended.

However, under some circumstances, the heir complaining about how the terms of the last will and testament were written may have a basis for challenging the will in what is called a will caveat action. If the heir is successful with the will caveat action he may be able to seek the remedy of having the last will and testament voided by the probate court. For example, if the heir has evidence that would prove that the decedent was not competent, lacked the capacity to make a will, or there was undue influence or duress then there may be a basis to challenge the will and have it voided. Likewise, if the heir has a basis to believe that the will is a fake or has been tampered with or altered from its original content, and has evidence to support this contention then the probate court may also void the will.

Peter D. Antonoplos, Esq. is a partner in the law firm of Antonoplos & Associates. Mr. Antonoplos’ practice focuses estate planning and real estate, and corporate and business law matters. Mr. Antonoplos is admitted to practice in the District of Columbia, New York State; and the State of Maryland. Mr. Antonoplos routinely lectures on real estate and probate law issues in Washington, DC and New York. Mr. Antonoplos lives in North West Washington, D.C. He is an avid chess player and motorcycle enthusiast. He may be reached at 202-803-5676 or