Not everyone who discovers a decedent’s directives specified in a will feels pleased with the results. Upset at the contents of the will, the aggrieved party may choose to contest it. The laws in California won’t support throwing out a will just because someone feels irked; sufficient grounds must exist to contest the document.
The person intending to contest needs a legitimate connection to the deceased. A child or sibling, for example, has a connection through blood relation. A next-door neighbor likely lacks standing because “being friends” probably wouldn’t be enough. If the neighbor jointly owned property with the descendant and the property goes through probate, then the neighbor might have standing. Standing alone does not guarantee an outcome, however. The court requires proof of specific elements to contest a will.
Fraud stands as a reason why the probate court could invalidate a will. Lying to a testator to cut someone out of a will could be deemed fraud. Coercing or threatening the testator to alter a will or write one based on extortionist demands would likely undermine validity. It’s important to remember that the courts require evidence of alleged fraud. In addition, contesting a will comes with legal costs, so those considering taking action may review the financial prudence of doing so.
A testator of diminished mental capacity might not be competent enough to write a will. There is a reason why the words “of sound mind” commonly appear in a will’s text. The person writing the will must possess the capacity to understand what he or she does. If not, then the will could become invalidated.
Wills must also follow proper formalities. Specific state laws define the formalities, which may address the number of witnesses necessary, for example. Some California statutes and requirements may be different from those in other states.
Contesting a will requires proving elements that would move a court to invalidate the document. During the estate planning process, the person writing the will may want to take steps to decrease anyone’s chances of contesting it. An attorney might help with producing a legally sound document.