The Iowa Supreme Court recently dealt with the question of a “pre-mortem” will contest. Will contests are typically filed after the person (testator) has died. For example, typical will challenges are based on lack of testamentary capacity or undue influence, or both. However, in the Kiene v. Wash. State Bank opinion from February 19, 2021, the Iowa court ruled that the validity of a Will cannot be determined during the life of the testator. Basically, too many things can happen before the testator dies and there are too many variables to consider.
In this ruling, the individual that had signed a will was under a guardianship and conservatorship proceeding. Contrary to the belief of many, that does NOT create a presumption that a person lacks testamentary capacity. Certain parties wanted to obtain a court ruling that the Will was invalid while the individual was still alive. Based on the court’s interpretation of the statute and some common sense arguments, the Court rejected the ability to contest a Will prior to death in Iowa. Some support for the argument included the potential that the person might do a new will later on, beneficiaries may not survive later which means different beneficiaries would be involved and they would need to be given notice and an opportunity to participate.
However, it is also important to remember that a will challenge after the person dies needs to be acted on quickly after the probate process starts.