A pen laying on a will

What Are the Grounds for Contesting a Will in California?

Creating a will is an important step in securing one’s assets and ensuring a smooth transition of wealth to heirs. However, the process is not immune to disputes, and contesting a will is not uncommon. In California, as in many other jurisdictions, there are specific grounds upon which a will can be contested. Here are the grounds for contesting a will in California.

1. Lack of Testamentary Capacity

One of the primary grounds for contesting a will in California is the allegation that the testator, the person creating the will, lacked testamentary capacity at the time of its creation. Testamentary capacity refers to the mental competence of the testator to understand the nature and extent of their property, the natural objects of their bounty (heirs), and the overall effect of the will.

Challenges on the basis of lack of testamentary capacity often arise when the testator was suffering from conditions such as dementia, insanity, or intoxication when the will was created.

2. Improper Execution

California has specific legal requirements for the valid execution of a will. If these requirements are not met, the will may be contested on the grounds of improper execution. Valid execution typically involves the testator signing the will in the presence of two witnesses who also sign it.

Challenges may arise if the will was not properly signed, witnessed, or if the testator was not of legal age at the time of execution.

3. Undue Influence

Another common ground for contesting a will in California is the claim of undue influence. Undue influence occurs when an individual exerts pressure or coercion on the testator, essentially manipulating them into creating a will that does not accurately reflect their true intentions.

To successfully contest a will based on undue influence, the challenging party must demonstrate that the influencer had a substantial impact on the testator, overpowering their free will and judgment.

4. Fraud and Forgery

Contesting a will may also be pursued if there is evidence of fraud or forgery. Fraud involves intentional deception, such as misrepresenting facts or withholding information, to induce the testator to create or modify a will in a certain way. On the other hand, forgery involves the fraudulent creation or alteration of the will document itself.

Proving fraud or forgery in court requires presenting clear and convincing evidence, making it difficult.

Biddle Law Can Help

Understanding the grounds for contesting a will in California is vital. Contesting a will requires a careful examination of the specific circumstances surrounding its creation. Seeking professional legal advice is highly recommended to navigate California’s probate laws and increase the likelihood of a successful challenge. That’s why a knowledgeable and experienced California estate planning attorney can help.

At Biddle Law, we are here to answer all of your questions and walk you through the entire process. Let us help you with any of your probate questions and needs. To learn more or to schedule a consultation, contact us today!