Understanding the last wishes of someone who has died is seldom easy. Even if the deceased had a will in place, the document may not satisfy those left behind. While the courts tend to assume that a will is legitimate if it meets the requirements for validity in California, many families still end up in probate litigation to dispute the will’s contents.
Dissatisfaction with the terms of a will is not cause for taking legal action in probate court. Under limited circumstances, the courts will examine whether to invalidate a will, which could mean treating the estate as if no will existed. Family members may protest that the deceased did not execute the will in accordance with California laws. Another acceptable reason for contesting a will is if an heir believes someone used fraud to trick the deceased into signing the will.
A common cause for contesting a will is if the deceased demonstrated a lack of testamentary capacity at the time of the signing. It can be difficult to prove that the testator did not understand what he or she was doing at the time because the threshold for testamentary capacity is relatively low. The fourth valid reason for contesting a will is when heirs suspect the deceased’s frail mental or physical health made him or her a victim of undue influence to change the contents of the will.
Probate litigation to contest a will can be stressful, time-consuming and expensive. However, if a significant inheritance is at stake, it may be worth the while of heirs who believe something is amiss with a loved one’s will. Seeking the advice and guidance of an experienced California attorney may provide them with the resources to reach their goals.