Most of the time, while not very pleasant, probate starts off without a hitch. The decedent’s will is verified by the court and then the personal representative of the estate dives into their many responsibilities. Every so often, however, a person will attempt to contest a will. Now, there are those incidences when a person merely feels spurned by the contents of a deceased loved one’s will. They thought they would get more and were sorely disappointed. Other times, a person will have legitimate and well-founded concerns that the will is invalid. In these cases, the law permits those with legal standing to bring a will contest action as an opportunity to prove to the court that the will should be invalidated.
California Will Contest Actions
Only a person with legal standing can bring a will contest action. Without legal standing, a person will not be permitted to bring the will contest action. To have standing, the person must be:
- Set to inherit under the proffered will;
- Set to inherit under a previous version of the decedent’s will; or
- Set to inherit under the state’s laws of intestacy.
In addition to standing, a person bringing a will action must have valid, legally recognized grounds for bringing the claim. This means that unfairness alone will not suffice as it is most certainly not a legal ground for contesting a will. Some of the more commonly asserted, legally recognized grounds for contesting a will include:
- Lack of testamentary capacity
- Undue influence
- Lack of will formalities
Anyone who plans on bringing a will contest action must come armed with more than legal standing and grounds for contesting the will. Evidence is key to the success of such actions and the threshold to be met is steep, to say the least. You see, courts will be extremely reluctant to say a will is invalid. To the courts, it is seen as the wishes of the decedent who can no longer speak for themselves. They will need to see solid and extensive evidence to support grounds for invalidating a will before they consider taking any action.
In the face of a will contest action, the court will have a number of options they can use to rule on the matter. For starters, they could deny the will contest action and uphold the proffered will as valid. Alternatively, they could find the will invalid in whole or in part. They could find the will invalid and revert to use of a previous version of the decedent’s will. They could also invalidate the will and mandate that the estate pass according to the state laws of intestacy. Intestacy laws come into play when someone dies without a valid will in place.
Estate Planning Attorney
In the wake of a loved one’s death, times can be challenging enough. When probate problems arise such as potential will contests, it can be the best choice to get trusted legal counsel to help everyone navigate these tumultuous waters. BoyesLegal, APC is here to help. Contact us today.