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4 grounds for challenging a will in California

On Behalf of | Apr 3, 2023 | Probate Litigation |

Will contests are common when it comes to the probate process. Wills involve immediate families, relatives, beneficiaries and other interested parties, and it is not surprising that there are disagreements regarding the estate property distribution. One dispute that can arise from the process is the questioning of the will’s validity.

When to contest a will

The court does not accept will contests just because the contesting individual finds the document’s contents unfair. There has to be a justifiable reason for challenging the same, which can include, but is not limited to, the following:

  • The testator does not have testamentary capacity: Under the law, individuals of legal age and sound mind can legally create a will. However, if the contesting party believes that the testator was a minor or did not have the mental capacity to understand the act of writing a will and its results, they can challenge the document.
  • The will is noncompliant with the law’s requirements: California requires the maker to write and sign the will in the presence of two witnesses, who should also sign the document. Moreover, the witnesses should not be beneficiaries of the will. If the will does not follow these requirements, it is invalid.
  • There was undue influence over the testator: Some people, such as senior citizens and persons with disabilities, are more vulnerable than others and can be subjects of undue influence when creating a will. In this case, interested parties can challenge the will.
  • There was fraud or coercion. If an interested party suspects and has evidence that the testator was tricked or forced into creating and signing a will that does not outline their wishes, they can contest the will.

It is not always easy to challenge a will, especially when the testator is no longer available to testify. However, it is the right of interested parties to challenge the will’s validity. Knowing the grounds for contesting a will can help in starting the legal process.