If you recently lost a loved one and believe that their estate is not being handled correctly or something is wrong with the Last Will and Testament terms, you need to take action. The quicker you seek legal advice and get your probate lawyer involved, the more likely it is that you will figure out if there is an issue and whether you need to file a lawsuit.
What is a Will Contest?
A last will and testament is a document that outlines your loved one’s wishes in the event of their passing. It can include designations for who is to inherit the estate and how to distribute the assets.
A will contest is the process of challenging the instructions outlined in the document itself. This process takes place in probate court. If you were left out of a will, are not happy with the share of the estate you are to receive, or believe something to be wrong with the document itself, you may have reason to contest.
Some people choose not to hire an attorney for assistance with the process of contesting a will and instead pursue it themselves to avoid legal fees. However, this process can be very complicated, and many even fail to receive a court agreement for the contestation. It is a good idea to hire an attorney to advise and assist with the process. It will help remove some of the stress, save you time and increase your chances of a favorable outcome.
But what will happen if the will contest holds and the will gets thrown out? In this case, intestacy laws will then preside for the remainder of the probate process.
Who Can Contest a Will?
California state law allows an interested person to contest a will. An interested person includes heirs of the deceased, named beneficiaries, and creditors.
There is a specific window of time when an interested person can contest a will during the probate process if they believe they have grounds for contesting. If you think you have the standing to contest a will, you must immediately contact us at The Legacy Lawyers.
Reasons to Contest a Will
There are several reasons to contest a will:
The Will is Defective
Specific requirements must be followed when creating and signing a will for it to be considered a legal document. A will needs to be properly drafted by an experienced estate planning attorney who ensures it is correctly executed and witnessed.
If the document isn’t prepared by someone knowledgeable, it may contain any number of errors. If any of these circumstances occur, a will can be considered defective and stand to be contested.
The Will is a Fraud
A will is considered fraudulent if created and signed as a forgery or undue influence is used to force the will-maker to sign a document they either disagree with or don’t understand.
The most common form of fraud occurs when another party misleads the will-maker regarding the will’s contents. When this happens, the will-maker was unduly influenced and did not fully understand what he or she was signing. They may have been put into some uncomfortable circumstance that forces them to sign the will.
One sign of forgery is if the will’s terms are inconsistent with other evidence of the will-maker’s intent. Or, if the signature on the will doesn’t look like it belongs to the deceased, you may want to have it analyzed to determine if it is a forgery. In this case, it is best to consult hand-writing experts and investigate the circumstances surrounding the will’s execution to determine if it is legitimate.
The Will is Revoked
Some individuals have more than one will. This is most commonly because there has been a change in circumstances, whether in beneficiary designations, guardians for their children, etc.
If they decide to establish a new will, they must revoke the old will. If you believe that the will submitted for probate is an old or revoked will, you may have grounds for contesting it.
The Deceased did not Have Mental Capacity
Testamentary capacity means the testator or person who established the will had a comprehensive understanding of their estate and assets when created their estate plan. Having testamentary capacity is also known as being of sound mind.
If your loved one was not of sound mind, it’s possible they were unaware of the terms outlined in the will. In this case, it is essential to obtain evidence from attending physicians and other witnesses to help establish your loved one’s mental capacity when they executed the will.
Do You Believe You Have Reason to Contest a Will?
Do you believe you have reason to contest your loved one’s will? Or do you need help determining whether you should contest their will? Call The Legacy Lawyers. Our law firm is experienced in probate law and contest matters, and we are ready to walk with you every step of the way.
If you successfully contest a will, the probate court may appoint you as the administrator of the estate. If you are interested in contesting a will, we will carefully walk with you every step of the way. We will never leave you wondering what to do next. Plus, we are here to answer your questions at no additional charge.
Start today by calling to schedule your no-cost consultation: (714) 963-7543. At The Legacy Lawyers, we are dedicated to your peace of mind.