The death of a family member is a confusing time for those left behind as they try and focus on the practical and legal ramifications of their loved one’s passing. Questions may arise about the last days, weeks, or months of your family member’s life. You may even begin to question the validity of the Last Will and Testament purportedly created and executed by the decedent prior to his or her death which may cause you to consider contesting the Will. The Los Angeles probate lawyers at Schomer Law Group, APC explain what you need to know about contesting a Will in California.
Probating a Will
Shortly after the death of your loved one, a Will should be submitted to probate if one was located. One of the first tasks of the probate court is authenticating the decedent’s Will after it has been submitted to the court. This is also the time when questions about the validity of the Will can be raised. The legal way to question the validity of a Will is to file a Will contes; however, there are several preliminary things you must consider to determine if you are eligible to file a Will contest in California and if you have viable grounds on which to challenge the Will.
To be eligible to contest a Will you must have “standing” to initiate a Will contest. Only an “interested person” has standing, meaning on an “interested person” can contest a Will in California. An “interested person” typically includes legal heirs of the estate, beneficiaries under the current Will or a previous Will, or creditors of the estate.
A Will contest must also be filed in a timely manner. A Will contest can be filed before a petition to probate the estate has been filed or prior to a hearing on the petition if it has already been filed. If the Executor has already filed the petition and the hearing has already occurred wherein the court accepted the Will for probate, a contestant only has 120 days from the date of the hearing to contest the Will.
Do You Have Grounds to Contest the Will?
If you are a beneficiary or heir, keep in mind that simply being unhappy with the inheritance left to you under the terms of the Will is insufficient cause to initiate a challenge to the Will. Instead, to succeed you must allege and prove legal grounds on which the Will can be invalidated in the State of California, including:
- Lack of testamentary intent or capacity. This requires you to prove that the decedent did not have the required mental state when the Will was made.
- Undue influence. Refers to an improper influence, usually from another person, at the time the Will was drafted and that affected the terms/drafting of the Will.
- Fraud. You must prove that the Will was made as a result of fraud on the decedent or that fraud was used to create the Will.
- Duress. Proving that the decedent was unlawfully confined or detained when making the will.
- Mistake. Claiming a mistake when the Will was made caused it to be invalid, or that a mistake is preventing you from receiving something from the estate to which you are legally entitled.
- Revocation. Proving that the Will was voided or cancelled out by a later Will or similar document.
Contact Los Angeles Probate Lawyers
For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns about contesting a Will in California, contact the experienced Los Angeles probate lawyers at Schomer Law Group APCby calling (310) 337-7696 to schedule an appointment.