A well-crafted estate plan can help you prevent will contents in Missouri. When you create an estate plan, you do so to ensure that your wishes for your estate are followed after your death. The concern of a successful will contest ruining your carefully created plan can be stressful. Your will is an essential document in both simple and comprehensive estate plans, and you need to understand how and when they can be contested so you can better prevent contests. An estate planning attorney in St. Charles can help you create a strong will and protect your interests.

Who Is Able to Contest a Will in Missouri?

No everyone can contest a will in Missouri. There are specific individuals who have the legal ability to challenge a will. In Missouri, you must be an interested party, meaning that you have a legal or financial interest in the will and estate. In short, if the challenge succeeds, you would benefit. The individuals with legal standing include:

  1. The will’s beneficiaries
  2. The beneficiaries of a prior version of the will
  3. Heirs who would receive property through intestate inheritance laws
  4. Creditors with unpaid debt from the estate

The representative of the estate with fiduciary interest may also have legal standing to challenge a will, such as a trustee or executor.

Legal Grounds for Will Contests

In addition to having the legal standing to contest a will, an individual must also have the legal grounds to do so. Disagreeing with how a will distributes assets or who was included as a beneficiary is an insufficient reason to contest a will. The court allows will contests on the following grounds in Missouri:

  1. Technical Issues: For a will to be valid in the state, it must be signed by the creator of the will, or testator, in front of two reliable witnesses. These witnesses must then also sign the will. If the will is not properly signed, it is invalid. Unclear or ambiguous aspects of the will could also be considered a technical issue.
  2. Lack of Testamentary Capacity: The testator must have the mental and testamentary capacity when signing the will to understand their estate, their familial and personal connections, and the meaning of signing the document. If they did not, the will is invalid.
  3. Undue Influence: This occurs when the testator is coerced, manipulated, or otherwise influenced by a third party. This influence results in changes to the will that benefit the third party.
  4. Fraud or Forgery: Invalid wills under fraud or forgery cover several potential situations. The testator may have believed that they were signing a document that was not their will, or they may have been otherwise defrauded during the signing. The will or signature may have been forged. The testator may have also been convinced to give assets to a beneficiary based on lies.
  5. Duress or Force: A will is invalid if the testator signed it under force or threat of force.
  6. New Will: The testator created a more current version of the will prior to their death that the court was unaware of.
  7. Revoked Will: The testator revoked their will prior to their death.

The person contesting the will has the burden of proof when claiming that a will is invalid.

Preventing Will Contests

If a will contest is successful, the current will is deemed invalid and discarded. The court will then operate from a prior and valid form of the will. However, if you had no prior versions of your will, then your estate will be subject to the state’s inheritance laws. This means that it will not follow your wishes, and the contest also makes the process of probate take much longer and be more expensive.

Although there is no way to prevent interested parties from making will contests, you can limit the claims’ chances of success. You can do this by:

  • Planning your estate early in life
  • Continuously reviewing and updating your estate plan throughout your life
  • Including a no-contest clause to discourage contests
  • Creating your estate plan with a skilled attorney
  • Creating a trust to reinforce your will
  • Ensuring that your will meets the requirements for validity
  • Sharing your broad wishes for your estate with your family members and beneficiaries


Q: Can a Will Be Contested in Missouri?

A: Yes, a will can be contested in Missouri, but it must be contested by someone with the legal standing to do so and with a legally valid reason. Someone must stand to benefit if their challenge is successful, such as being the beneficiary of a prior version of the will or a family member who would benefit from intestate law. A potential beneficiary or actual beneficiary disliking the outcome of a will does not make a claim valid. Valid reasons for an invalid will include undue influence, duress, and fraud.

Q: Can You Avoid Probate in Missouri?

A: Yes, there are ways you can avoid probate court through comprehensive estate planning. The most effective and common methods use one or more revocable trusts. This ensures that you retain control over the assets while you are living, but they are protected after your death. Because a trust is a legal entity, the assets within do not pass to state ownership. The assets are passed to the trustee, who is then responsible for gathering, inventorying, valuing, and distributing the assets.

Q: What Makes a Will Invalid in Missouri?

A: Potential reasons why a will may be invalid in Missouri include:

  • The will was not signed properly in front of two witnesses.
  • The creator of the will, or testator, revoked it prior to their death.
  • There is a more current version of the will.
  • Another individual exercised undue influence on the testator.
  • The testator signed the will under duress.
  • The will or signature was forged.
  • The testator believed that they were signing a different document.
  • The testator gave money to a fraudulent entity.

Q: What Rights Do Beneficiaries Have in Missouri?

A: Beneficiaries have several rights, including the right to receive the inheritance provided to them in a will or trust and the right to be informed about the estate, its assets, and its administration. Beneficiaries also have the right to contest a will if they believe that there is a reason why it is invalid and does not represent the testator’s wishes.

Furthermore, a beneficiary has the right to legal action against the trustee or executor if the beneficiary believes that the representative is not completing their duties and/or not acting with a fiduciary duty to beneficiaries.

Protect Your Family and Beneficiaries With Stange Law Firm

The team at Stange Law Firm can help you determine the documents needed to create a strong estate plan and what you can do to lower the chances of contests. Contact our firm today.