Los Angeles Will Contest Attorney
Mourning the loss of a loved one is difficult enough in its own right. Unfortunately, an elderly loved one’s passing is often wrapped up with financial concerns. Adult children, current or former spouses, and other potential heirs often arrive to contest the provisions in the decedent’s will, believing that they were unfairly or unconscionably excluded. There are legitimate reasons to contest a will, but there are many illegitimate challenges as well.
If you are engaged in the probate process and you believe there’s good reason to challenge the validity of a will, or if you are working to administer the wishes of your deceased loved one and someone has made an erroneous challenge, a dedicated and thorough California will contest lawyer at Blasser Law can help. Our trust & estates attorneys understand the complexities of familial relationships as well as we know California probate law, and we’ll help you protect your rights and the wishes of your family.
Reasons to Contest a Will
Wills are generally tough to successfully challenge. Certain provisions in a will may be ignored in favor of public policy, such as if a testator tries to disinherit their spouse in California (your spouse is entitled to their share of your community property, regardless of what your will states). In other cases, the validity of the will itself must be challenged. That means finding a reason to claim that the will cannot be trusted and has no legal value.
The most common reasons for challenging the validity of a will include the following:
- Wills, like contracts, can be invalidated if they were written in reliance on fraudulent representations. If a beneficiary induced the testator to draft or change their will based on a fraudulent misrepresentation, the fraudulently-induced provisions may be invalid.
- Undue influence. Many challenges to wills are based on allegations that the testator was subject to undue influence by a family member or trusted advisor, who coerced the testator into changing the will shortly before they passed away. These allegations are often leveled at caregivers, accountants or other agents, and family members who spent a lot of time with the testator shortly before their death.
- Lack of testamentary capacity. A will, like any contract, can only be executed if the parties have the mental capacity necessary to make a legally-binding decision. If the testator lacked that mental capacity–if they were inhibited by injury, illness, or intoxication–at the time the will was drafted or amended, then the will was never validly executed. Lack of capacity is often argued due to dementia, senility, or intoxication by way of medication.
- Sometimes, a will simply makes a mistake. For instance, it may refer to the wrong property or the wrong person. A simple misspelling or grammatical error might not invalidate a will, but if a will or specific provision makes a clear and significant mistake, the will may be challenged. For example, if a provision leaves certain property “To my oldest son, Michael,” when the testator had an older son named David, the provision may be subject to challenge.
- Procedural errors. Wills must be witnessed and signed to go into effect. If a purported will lacks the testator’s signature, or the signature of disinterested witnesses (unless the will is handwritten, also called “holographic”), then the will could be invalid.
If the court finds that a will is invalid, the court has two options. The court can either throw the will out entirely and distribute the estate in accordance with California’s intestacy laws (the laws of inheritance that apply when there is no will), or the court can invalidate only specific provisions deemed invalid and execute the rest of the will as best as possible. A dedicated probate attorney can help you understand the options available in the event of a will challenge.
If you are looking to contest a will, you need to act quickly. Ideally, you should file a petition to contest the will before the probate hearing takes place. However, you can contest the will after the hearing, even if the court accepted the will as valid at the hearing. Challenges to a will must be filed within 120 days of the probate hearing date.
Seasoned Will Contest and Estate Planning Attorneys for Challenges to California Wills
If you believe that your loved one’s will should be deemed invalid, or if you are in the probate process and seek to protect a will and your interests as drafted, call a knowledgeable, professional, and thorough Claremont probate lawyer at Blasser Law today at 877-927-2181.