It’s common for relatives to be unhappy with how a deceased person distributes assets to beneficiaries under a will, but mere disappointment isn’t a sufficient reason to raise a dispute. California probate law identifies certain grounds for an interested party to legally file a will contest in court, and the statute is quite strict on which situations qualify. If you believe these or other questionable circumstances apply, consult with an experienced California estate administration and probate lawyer about challenging the will.
Challenge to Will Execution
Under state law, there are certain mandatory elements for making a valid will; in the absence of these requirements, there may be grounds to contest the will. For instance, execution of a will must be witnessed by two disinterested witnesses who also sign the document. If the will doesn’t include these signatures, it may be appropriate to file a will contest.
Evidence of Duress or Undue Influence
If a person faces coercion or pressure from another person when executing a will, there may be reason to challenge it. At times, a family member, caretaker, or close friend may influence the testator in order to obtain a financial advantage or distribution of estate assets.
Capacity of the Testator
California law requires a person to be mentally capable of executing a will and designating the beneficiaries of assets. Any circumstances showing diminished capacity, whether temporary or permanent, could provide grounds for filing a will contest.
Indications of Fraud
Interested parties may seek to challenge a will where a beneficiary convinces the testator to execute or make changes based upon some sort of misrepresentation. For example, it would be fraud for a child to tell a parent that another sibling has been charged with a crime or engaged in misconduct, just to persuade the parent to disinherit that individual.
Schedule a Consultation with a Probate Lawyer Today
As you can see, a California will contest can be very complicated and there is a heavy burden of proof to prevail. The key to your success is retaining a qualified lawyer that has extensive experience in estate administration and probate cases. To hear more about your options, please contact the Law Office of Charles D. Stark in Santa Rosa, CA. Our legal team represents clients throughout Sonoma County in will contests and other types of disputes. We’re happy to answer your questions or set up a consultation to discuss your situation.