No matter how hard a California resident tries, the odds are that he or she will not be able to please everyone when it comes to an estate plan. While a potential heir or beneficiary cannot contest a will just because he or she isn't happy with the terms of the will, there are reasons why it might be necessary to contest it.
In order to contest a will, there must be a legal reason to do so. Understanding what these reasons are could help you decide whether pursuing probate litigation would be worthwhile.
Why would someone contest a will?
If you think something just isn't right with your deceased loved one's will, you may have reason to contest it. Reviewing the following legal grounds to contest a will could help you determine whether there is cause for concern:
- If you believe that your loved one may not have had the mental capacity to understand the nature and value of the assets making up his or her estate
- If you have reason to doubt your loved one knew what he or she was doing when creating the will
- If you think someone tricked your loved one into signing the will
- If you believe someone unduly influenced your loved one into creating certain terms in the will
- If you don't think the will was properly executed in accordance with state law
As you can see, you or someone else with the legal standing to contest the will must have a valid reason to ask the court to declare all or part of the will invalid. It is not enough to simply disagree with how your loved one decided to divide the estate.
What do you do about your suspicions?
If you suspect that one or more of the above occurred when your deceased loved one executed his or her will, then your next step would most likely be to discuss your suspicions with an estate planning and probate attorney. After a thorough review of the circumstances, it may become clear whether initiating a will contest would be the appropriate course of action.
These claims are often difficult to prove and tend to stir up considerable contention among family members. It would be in your best interests not to pursue this course of action on your own. Instead, you could work with an experienced attorney who can provide you with the advocacy and guidance you need during this difficult time.