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Grounds for contesting a will in California

On Behalf of | Jul 24, 2022 | Probate Litigation |

Coping with a loved one’s loss in California can be very difficult. But, you can have a hard time moving on if you believe that their true wishes weren’t carried out the way they would’ve wanted. And so, if you think that something is wrong with their will or perhaps the execution of their will, you can contest it under the following grounds:

Lack of testamentary capacity

You can challenge a will in probate litigation if you believe that the testator (your loved one that made the will) wasn’t in the relevant mental capacity to understand what they were doing. In California, a person can only make a valid will if they:

  • Are aware they’re making a will
  • Know what property they own
  • Recognize their natural heirs
  • Understand how distributing their property will affect those heirs

If you can prove that the testator didn’t have these basic understandings when they signed their will, then the court may find it invalid. A lack of capacity can be due to senility, mental illness, or even intoxication.

Fraud or undue influence

If you think someone pressured or tricked your loved one into making a will that didn’t truly reflect their wishes, you may have grounds to contest it. This could be something as simple as someone convincing an elderly person with dementia to include them in the will when they otherwise wouldn’t have. Or, it could be something more nefarious, like outright forging a will.

Improper execution of the will

A will has to be executed properly in order for it to be valid. This means it must be in writing and signed by the testator in front of two witnesses. The witnesses also have to sign the will. California courts could accept a will signed by another person only if they did so on behalf of the testator who lacked the physical ability to do so themselves.

If you’re considering contesting a will, you should do so within six months from the date of the grant of probate letters being issued. Also, ensure to gather sufficient evidence to increase your chances of success in probate court.