Contesting a Will in Pennsylvania: Legal Grounds and Procedures Explained by a Probate Lawyer

Contesting a will can be a complex and sensitive matter, often arising from concerns about the validity of the document or the fairness of its provisions. In Pennsylvania, like in many other states, there are specific legal grounds and procedures for challenging a will. As probate lawyers with experience in Pennsylvania law, we aim to provide a clear explanation of the process involved in contesting a will in the Keystone State.

Legal Grounds for Contesting a Will in Pennsylvania

Lack of Testamentary Capacity

A will is only valid if the testator (the person making the will) possesses the mental capacity to understand the nature and extent of their assets and the implications of creating a will. If it can be proven that the testator lacked testamentary capacity at the time the will was executed, the document may be deemed invalid.

Undue Influence

If it is believed that the testator was coerced, unduly influenced, or manipulated by another person into making certain provisions in their will, those provisions may be challenged. Undue influence typically regards situations where the testator was vulnerable or dependent on the influencer, leading to the execution of a will that does not reflect the testator’s true intentions.


Fraudulent activities such as forging signatures, altering the contents of the will, or misrepresenting facts to the testator could render the will invalid. Contesting a will on grounds of fraud requires providing evidence that deceitful practices were involved in the creation or execution of the document.

Improper Execution

Pennsylvania law has certain requirements for the proper execution of a will, including the presence of witnesses and the testator’s signature. If these requirements are not met, the validity of the will may be questioned.

Procedures for Contesting a Will in Pennsylvania

Filing a Petition

The process of contesting a will begins by filing a petition with the Orphans’ Court Division of the Court of Common Pleas in the county where the decedent resided. The petition should outline the grounds for contesting the will and any supporting evidence.


All interested parties, including beneficiaries named in the will and heirs who would inherit if the will is declared invalid, must be notified of the will contest proceedings.

Discovery and Evidence Gathering

Both parties involved in the will contest have the opportunity to gather evidence through discovery, which may include depositions, document requests, and interrogatories. This phase aims to uncover relevant facts and strengthen each party’s case.

Mediation or Trial

In some cases, mediation may be pursued as a means of resolving the dispute outside of court. If mediation is unsuccessful or not pursued, the matter will proceed to trial, where a judge will hear arguments from both sides and make a decision based on the evidence presented.


If either party is dissatisfied with the outcome of the trial, they may have the right to appeal the decision to a higher court.


Contesting a will in Pennsylvania can be a challenging and emotionally charged process, requiring careful consideration of legal grounds and diligent preparation of evidence. As probate lawyers, we are committed to guiding clients through this process with expertise and sensitivity, ensuring their rights are protected and their concerns are addressed effectively. If you are considering contesting a will or have questions about estate litigation in Pennsylvania, do not hesitate to seek legal advice tailored to your specific circumstances.