If you have found this website then you are investigating what you must do to challenge the validity someone’s last will and testament. California law permits you to file a contest with the court either before or after a will is admitted to probate. There are strict time limitations for filing a will contest. Failing to file a will contest in time will be fatal to your will contest.
California Law Requires You To Be An Interested Person
Regardless of whether you file a contest before or after a will is admitted to probate, you must have grounds to contest the will. Under California Law, you must be an interested person to be permitted to contest a will.
The California Probate Code very broadly defines interested person to include a decedent’s spouse or registered domestic partner as well as the decedent’s children, heirs, testate beneficiaries, creditors, and any other person having a property right in or claim against a trust or estate which may be affected by the proceeding.
California law recognizes certain people as having standing to contest a will to include the following people: “An heir, devisee, child, spouse, creditor, beneficiary, and any other person having a property right in or claim against a trust estate or the estate of a decedent which may be affected by the proceeding.” The Code expressly states the meaning of interested person may vary and will be determined according to the particular purpose of the proceeding and the particular matter involved.
Were You Harmed Financially By The Will Offered For Probate?
The general rule under California case law is that someone who wishes to contest a will must have an interest of a financial nature which may be impaired or defeated by probate of the will or benefitted by setting it aside (such as an heir or legatee under a prior will). Basically, the Court will want to know if you would have gotten more money from the estate if not for the will that you want to contest.
You Must Have Standing To Sue
Some examples of people with standing include:
- An heir at law is a person who would have inherited any portion of the estate, if decedent had died without a will (intestate).
- A pretermitted heir includes the decedent’s children, spouse, and registered domestic partner, who are not mentioned or provided for in the will or other testamentary instrument.
- Someone who was a beneficiary under earlier will but got less or nothing at all because of a later will.
- Someone who was a beneficiary under later will but got less or nothing at all because of an earlier will that was offered for probate.
- If you are a secured creditor of decedent’s heir and the heir has been disinherited by the will.
- If you are an executor under an earlier will that was admitted to probate then the executor must defend the earlier will.
You Must Have Evidence To Support Your Claim
If you have standing to contest the will then you will need a reason that you believe that the will is unacceptable. The following grounds or reasons are acceptable by the Court:
- Revocation: Evidence that the decedent had revoked the will that has been offered for probate.
- Lack of capacity: Evidence that the decedent was incapable (because of diminished capacity or lack of capacity) that prevented the decedent from forming the intent necessary to prepare a will.
- Fraud: Evidence that the will was prepared by the decedent as a result of fraud on the decedent.
- Misrepresentation: Evidence that someone made misrepresentations to the decedent that influenced the preparation of the will.
- Menace: Evidence that someone threatened the decedent into preparing the will that you wish to contest.
- Duress: Evidence that the decedent would not have prepared the will if the decedent had not been unlawful confinement or detention.
- Undue influence: Evidence that someone close to the decedent (such as a close friend, healthcare provider, financial advisor, or attorney) used his or her position to exert pressure on the decedent to include them in their will.
- Mistake: Evidence that the decedent made a mistake in how he or she prepared his or her will that resulted in you not getting what the decedent intended you to receive.
- Lack of due execution: Evidence that there are some problems with how the will was executed such as a failure to have the will properly witnessed or the will was not signed by the decedent.
- Forgery: Evidence that the will offered for probate was a forged will.
If you believe that you have unfairly lost your inheritance and you have evidence to support your claim then contact us to discuss your options. Please be aware that time is of the essence in these types of matters. Email or call the attorneys at Wolfberg & Wolfberg, P.C. (800) 997-8348 for a free consultation regarding your Will Contest Rights.
The information provided on this web site is not legal advice. Legal advice can only come from a lawyer admitted to practice in your state once that lawyer is told about all the facts concerning your situation. This site is for informational purposes only and not all of the material reflects the opinions of Wolfberg & Wolfberg, P.C., its attorneys, or its clients. The information on this web site is not guaranteed to be correct, complete, or up to date.