When a decedent in California dies, the executor files a petition to probate the will. The petitioner must send notice that they filed the petition to probate the will to all heirs, devisees, executors and alternative executors of the decedent. If you have a legal reason to contest the will, then you need to object to the petition.
When someone uses threats or injury to make the testator revise or sign a will, then you have grounds to file a will contest. Withholding food, medicine, water and other essentials from the testator count as duress. Threatening to withhold essentials from someone is another form of duress too.
Undue influence is excessive persuasion or manipulation to get the testator to change their will or write the will in a certain way. When California receives will contests for undue influence, it considers several factors to determine whether undue influence occurred. The court evaluates the vulnerability of the decedent and the authority of the influencer over them. Illness, impaired cognitive function, disability and dependency are examples of vulnerability. Influencers who have authority over the victim include caretakers, healthcare professionals, spiritual advisers, legal professionals, family members and experts.
If someone told the decedent a lie to influence them in changing their will, this counts as fraud under California law. Destroying the most current will and replacing it with an older or different will is also fraud.
California has certain rules in place for creating a will. The testator must sign it, and at least two witnesses need to be present at the same time of the testator signing the will. It’s also valid if the testator acknowledges the legitimacy of the will in front of the two witnesses. The witnesses need to sign the will and know that it’s the testator’s will.
For wills to be valid in California, the testator must willingly and knowingly write and sign them. Undue influence, duress and fraud invalidate either parts of the will or the entire document.