What are the Grounds for Contesting a Will?
In the vast majority of cases, the reading of a will is an unsurprising event. Oftentimes, the deceased will have told their heirs what to expect to inherit or the inheritance is divided up as expected. However, in some cases, the reading of a will results in shocking revelations about who will or will not inherit and how much of the estate goes to each beneficiary. In these situations, you may need to contest the validity of the will and estate plan, but it is important to understand when and how a will can be contested. At The Inheritance Recovery Attorneys in California, our team of expert probate attorneys is here to help. Call the office or contact us today for a free consultation of your case.
Grounds for Contesting a Will
In California, there are four main grounds for legally contesting a will. You are required to state grounds during a will contest and provide evidence for why the will is invalid under those grounds. A highly qualified attorney is your best option for crafting an argument for why the current will should be deemed invalid and either substituted for a prior version or have the estate divided according to the state’s intestacy laws.
Lack of Testamentary Capacity
The most common grounds for a will contest is a lack of testamentary capacity. At the time that a will is signed, the testator must understand that he or she is signing a will, the extent of the assets in the estate, and the distribution of those assets in the will. If the testator did not have the capacity to understand one or more of those tenants, or did not understand them in relation to each other, then he or she lacked the capacity to sign a valid will. Oftentimes, this ground is cited when the deceased suffered from Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia when the will was signed.
Another ground for challenging a will is the use of undue influence. This occurs when a caretaker, family member, or friend used significant influence over the deceased to overpower the will of the testator in favor of his or her own desires for the will. In this situation, you often see the person who exerted the undue influence receive a disproportionate share of the estate or the entire estate in the will.
Fraud or Forgery
Fraud or forgery is another ground for contesting a will. Fraud or forgery occurs when someone used duplicitous means to get the deceased to sign a will or alter the will to something other than what the testator intended. This can include removing or adding pages to the will, creating an entirely false will, hiding the signature page to a will in a stack of papers for the deceased to sign, and other fraudulent means.
The final ground for a will contest is procedural issues. This refers to problems with the will that render it legally invalid. Some of the most common examples of procedural issues include failing to sign the will, signing a will without disinterested witnesses, or creating a will before turning 18 years old. If you believe that any of these situations occurred, it is crucial that you speak with an attorney as soon as possible.
What to do if You Want to Contest a Will
If you would like to contest a will, there are some important steps that you must take in order to protect your claim. First, reach out to an experienced probate attorney as soon as possible. A lawyer will be able to file a petition with the probate court that will halt any distribution of the estate and begin the process of your legal case. If possible, get the original will in question, any prior versions, or copies of these documents as evidence for your case. In situations of lack of testamentary capacity or undue influence, any documentation you have regarding the testator’s mental state or evidence of undue influence practices will be helpful for your claims. Your lawyer will be able to advise you on what is necessary in order to prove your claim of an invalid will.
Talk to Our Office Today
To learn more about how to contest a will in California, speak with a highly qualified probate attorney about your case today. Call the office or contact us at The Inheritance Recovery Attorneys to schedule a free consultation of your case now.