The admitting of a loved one’s will to formal probate can be a process that makes you expect certain things to occur next. It can be disheartening to realize that the will as it is established and proposed to court does not line up with what a loved one had promised to you or a previous version of the will that you saw.
While not every case will prompt hiring a California will contest attorney, it is a good idea to discuss your concerns directly with an experienced estate planning professional to have a better sense of some of the issues involved in these kinds of claims.
Did you know that only certain people are eligible to start a will contest in California? Not every party who believes that a will is invalid has stake to start such a claim and initiate this case review in court. If you are a party to the will or a previous version that you allege is the valid one, however, you might want to speak to an attorney.
Basics of Will Contests
One of the most challenging circumstances that any family can face is after the loss of a loved one when one or more members of the family believe that a will was invalid. This can have serious emotional and economic consequences regarding the property or money associated with the estate.
The determination of any of these issues should be brought to the court’s attention by a will contest attorney in California. California law does allow will contest in state court to challenge the validity of the will when a beneficiary or other interested party has evidence to argue that the will is invalid.
The outcome of this case can determine who gets what and the size and value of the bequest and all of this has to do with the validity or invalidity of the document.
Initiating a Will Contest in CA
Anyone seeking to have a California court determine a will valid or invalid will need to proceed through court. Those who support the validity of a will are known as proponents whereas those challenging the legitimacy of a will are called the contestants.
This is decided in California by a judge without a jury and it is the responsibility of the proponents to show that the will was properly executed and signed due to all required formalities. The contestants, therefore, bear the most burden of proof in any will contest case since they must be able to show that grounds existed that would invalidate the will. The kinds of grounds that can invalidate a will include:
- Claims and evidence that the testator or creator of the will was unduly influenced by another party, such as a caregiver or someone taking advantage of a loved one who coerced the into drafting a new will.
- The will was based on fraud.
- A more recent will exists that renders the will in question invalid.
- The testator mistakenly executed the will believing something associated with the bequest to have been true when it was not.
- At the time of creation and signing, the testator did not have proper testamentary intent or capacity to sign the document.
No matter whether you find yourself in the position of defending against a will contest or initiating a will contest, seeking legal counsel sooner rather than later can help you avoid many mistakes.
Sadly, this situation can put strain on family relationships which is another factor to contemplate directly with your probate litigation attorney. If you truly suspect that a loved one’s will was tampered with or was invalid from the time that it was signed, you need to raise these concerns in court but it is important for you to bring this claim in a timely fashion and to understand all consequences and implications of doing so. Your lawyer can be there to answer your questions and to help you organize paperwork and evidence that you will submit to the court when bringing forward these claims.