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How to challenge a codicil to a will in Massachusetts

On Behalf of | Jul 1, 2022 | Will Contests

The testator’s desires may change after creating a will in Massachusetts. In such an instance, they may need to make another document known as a codicil to express their new wishes, like adding beneficiaries or deleting certain provisions. However, sometimes a particular change can put the validity of the codicil in question. If that’s the case, you can file a petition in Massachusetts courts to contest the codicil.

Understanding a codicil to a will

A codicil to a will is a supplement that makes changes, additions, or deletions to an existing will. A codicil must be executed with the same formalities as the execution of a will in Massachusetts. However, unlike a will, it does not need to be notarized.

Grounds for challenging a codicil

Grounds for challenging codicils are the same as will contests. For example, you can contest it if you believe that:

  • The testator was not of sound mind when they executed the codicil
  • The testator was forced or coerced into signing the codicil
  • The codicil is fraudulent
  • The codicil was not properly executed

The process of challenging a codicil begins with filing a petition in the probate court where the will was originally admitted. This is typically the place of residence of the decedent at the time of their death.

Next, you will need to serve notice of your petition to all interested parties, i.e., anyone who would inherit under the will if the codicil were invalidated. The law also requires you to file a certificate of service to the court and an affidavit.

The court will schedule a hearing, where you (the person contesting) and the executor will present your arguments and evidence. The judge will then decide whether or not to invalidate the codicil.

If you successfully invalidate the codicil, the original will goes back into effect as if the codicil never existed. The court will undo any changes made in the codicil, and anyone who was added as a beneficiary will no longer inherit anything.