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How long do beneficiaries have to contest a will?

Courts see wills as the voice of the deceased issuing their last wishes. That’s the testator, the individual who wrote the will. Typically, California law supports the will. Anyone who argues the content of the will and its intent is contesting the will.

Why contest a will?

Individuals or entities will argue the will because they do not believe the decisions therein are fair. These parties feel they are entitled to assets the testator did not give them.

The vast majority of the time, it’s family that challenges the will. The most successful challenger contesting a will is the spouse. California’s community property status will lean towards the law that says the surviving spouse is automatically entitled to 50% of communal assets.

The most successful contested heirship claims attest that the deceased lacked the mental (or testamentary) capacity to execute a will or the testator was wrongly persuaded to unjustly assign assets.

Process for contesting a will

In California, one cannot file a claim to contest until the probate process is officially opened. Probate validates the will and begins the process of administering assets under the testator’s terms.

You have 120 days from the date of probate opening to contest the will. It’s suggested anyone who has an issue attend any hearings so an objection to the admission of the will goes on the record.

The court will want to hear your argument. First, there has to be a written, formal objection that states legal grounds that prove the will is not valid. The goal is to convince the court to reconsider the will’s status.

As there is a limited time to contest, one should act in a timely manner. Probate may be a long and tedious process, but you still don’t want the law to bar bringing an action.