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What are will contests and challenges?

Not all probate proceedings in California move along smoothly. Heirs, beneficiaries, and interested parties might have strong disagreements with the contents of a will. The conflicts may result in someone taking legal action. Namely, the person might choose to contest the will. If the person has legitimate reasons and standing, then the court may make changes.

Points about contesting a will

“Standing” means a great deal when attempting to contest a will. A beneficiary previously listed in an earlier will or an intestate heir may have standing. The same might be true with an entity that has a valid connection to the testator. Without standing, the lawsuit could end up swiftly dismissed.

Anyone considering contesting a will must also look at the statutes of limitations. Once the time limit for contesting a will expires, then a lawsuit cannot go forward. Once probate starts in California, the window to file a challenge to a will is a mere 120 days.

Grounds for contesting a will

Feeling displeased over how the testator divided assets won’t likely be enough to succeed with a challenge. After all, the will reflect the testator’s wishes and not an heir’s. That said, there could be instances where the testator’s decisions might be suspect and reflective of an invalid will.

If someone forced or otherwise coerced the testator to agree to changes to a will, the will might be invalid. Testators must be “of sound mind” when writing a will. A will could be invalid when the testator did not understand what they did.

DIY wills might be laden with problems and question marks that lead to challenges. When an attorney assists someone with writing a will, the document could be much more sound and legally binding. An attorney may pick up on any coercion or fraud that a third-party might attempt.

When an attorney helps the testator write the will, the attorney could be called as a witness during probate litigation. Such testimony may be helpful to the party defending the will.