3 Reasons Why a Will Might Be Contested

Wills are legal documents whose validity, by definition and by design, is extremely difficult to challenge. Last wishes presented in a Will are legally protected so that a person creating a Will may confidently expect that its contents will be respected and carried out accordingly. Still, rare and infrequent though they may be, situations where someone attempts to invalidate a Will do happen. Such legal actions are known as Will contests. The probate laws in California detail the circumstances in which a family member of a deceased person may decide to file a Will contest. In this article, we will explore 3 main reasons why you may choose to contest the validity of a Will if you are currently involved in probate proceedings.

Reason No. 1: Lack of Testamentary Intent or Capacity

A person writing a Will – called a testator – must fulfill certain requirements imposed by the law to ensure the document’s validity. One such requirement states that the testator must have the legal and mental ability to create it. This requirement is known as testamentary capacity. Additionally, the testator must also have testamentary intent. This means that, when preparing the document, the decedent indeed meant it to serve as their Will.

If a person involved in the probate process believes that the requirements mentioned above weren’t met, he or she can challenge the Will based on the lack of testamentary intent or capacity. For example, a Will contestant may claim that the decedent created the Will in a mental state that would have made them unable to fully comprehend their actions or the wishes presented in the Will. If sufficient evidence exists to support such claims, the probate court may decide to invalidate the contested Will.

Reason No. 2: Undue Influence

Another reason to file a Will contest is undue influence. This refers to circumstances where a testator has been manipulated by another person into making certain testamentary decisions. Undue influence is often claimed in situations where the Will doesn’t appropriately benefit the deceased person’s family or friends. Similarly, if one of the beneficiaries – such as the decedent’s caretaker or legal advisor – has been awarded what seems like an unfair share of the estate, it may also be a reason to suspect that undue influence has taken place.

Reason No. 3: Lack of Sufficient Number of Witnesses

California probate laws require typewritten Wills to be signed by at least two witnesses. These witnesses must not only be present at the signing of the Will, but they must also read and acknowledge its contents. Failure to conform to this requirement may give a basis for a Will contest. However, it must be noted that, in California, holographic Wills (Wills that are written entirely in the testator’s handwriting) do not require witnesses to ensure validity.

Do You Have Reasons to Contest a Will? Contact Solan, Park & Robello

Even if the reasons to contest a Will seem self-evident to you, you will require assistance from an experienced probate lawyer to be able to prove them. Solan, Park & Robello are probate attorneys with decades of combined experience in probate law in the San Francisco Bay Area. Contact us today to schedule a consultation on your probate or Will contest case.

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Solan, Park & Robello

Solan, Park & Robello is a full-service probate and estate planning firm offering experienced counsel in a wide range of estate planning matters—from preparation to administration to litigation.

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