Making Sense of Caveats,
Will Contests, and Defenses

Older woman talking to a younger woman discussing legal documents at a table

Making Sense of Caveats, Will Contests, and Defenses

First off, “caveat proceedings” is just a decorative way of saying “contesting a will.”

Probate caveat litigation arises when “interested parties” challenge a will’s legitimacy in probate.

The law defines interested parties as individuals who hold some kind of pecuniary interest in an estate attached to a will that impacts their inheritance negatively.

Plaintiffs (caveators) are often legal heirs, relatives or individuals named in wills, previous wills, or estates without testamentary documents due invalidation by the courts.

It’s no mystery that this facet of estate law is the most complex and troublesome to litigate because not only must probate attorneys prove the will’s validity (or invalidity), but they must also establish legal grounds for the courts to enforce (or strike down) the testamentary document.

All this regularly takes place among divisive family conflicts that provoke animosity among parties as each side struggles to protect their financial interest in assets of significant money value.

For these reasons, caveators in Iowa must find a seasoned will challenge attorney who holds years of practice in estate litigation and who has the maturity and experience to skillfully navigate the proceedings so the parties can negotiate favorable terms before legal costs get out of hand.

The probate caveat lawyers at Smith Law Firm would like to thank Iowans for making our practice the go-to law firm in the state for contesting wills by sharing some will challenge insight with you so you’ll know what to expect should you ever have to fight for your inheritance.

Common Questions

Will Contest

Caveats that claim testators lacked the mental capacity to form a valid will at the time of execution. Mere presence of insanity or delusion alone doesn’t prove incapacity. The burden therefore lies with the caveators to prove the decedent was not of sound mind and was unfit to understand the property they owned or grasp the consequences of their decisions.
Testators must observe strict procedural requirements to execute a binding will or trust in Iowa. Caveators often contend testamentary documents lack authentic notarized signatures or lack two adult witnesses to attest the will’s signing. The courts will order administrators or executors to exclude wills and trusts that testators executed contrary to estate planning rules and procedures.
A claim that asserts the testator was not of sound mind when planning his or her estate because another person coerced, pressured or persuaded the decedent to include provisions he or she wouldn’t normally include had the influencer not been present.
A challenge that contends the will or trust in controversy is not a true reflection of the testator’s intent because another party has forged the testamentary document or because another party’s fraudulent misrepresentation deceived the testator into signing or changing the will.

Existence of an Earlier Will

Sometimes caveators discover a previous, properly executed will resting within Iowa’s statute of limitations that supersedes the testamentary document in contention. When this happens, interested parties will petition the court to replace the will in controversy with the old one and to shift the testator’s assets to caveator’s executor.

Experienced Caveat and Will Challenge Litigation in Iowa

The Smith Law Firm in Iowa protects and defends the rights of interested parties involved in will challenges.

We recognize that will contest litigation is complex, expensive and emotional for most individuals — and our practice of defending caveat proceedings and winning will challenges has made us the go-to probate litigators in Iowa for resolving all estate matters.

And don’t forget. “It’s Smith Law Firm’s goal to save you time and money by resolving your proceedings out of court or in mediation.”


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Check out our blog to learn more about will challenges and caveats in Iowa.


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Altoona, Iowa 50009

“It’s Smith Law Firm’s goal to save you time and money by resolving your proceedings out of court or in mediation.”