Will Contests

A will contest is an objection challenging the validity of a will and its admission to probate. An individual cannot challenge the validity of a will simply because he or she does not like its provisions, or because they did not get what they had hoped for under the will. Courts have decided that tests on the validity of wills are not contingent on the elements of “fairness”, the reasonableness of its provisions, or on the timing of its disbursements. As a result an entire body of law is devoted to the litigation of will contests.

Challenges are most often raised by individuals who raise several assertions about the will such as, that:

  • The will drafter, also known as the testator, lacked the required mental capacity at the time the document was created;
  • The testator was subjected to fraud, coercion, or undue influence during its creation and implementation;
  • There are ambiguities in the will;
  • The will is a forgery;
  • They were improperly omitted from the will; or
  • The will does not conform to the legal requirements that allow it to be recognized as a valid will.

In addition, in many states, a legal presumption of undue influence arises where a beneficiary under the will stands in a confidential relationship with the testator. By statute, you have a limited amount of time to challenge the validity of the will which is different from that in other areas of law. Challenges to the validity of a will must be initiated promptly because deadlines are often truncated to ensure that debts are paid and assets distributed in a timely manner. If the will contest is success, the probate court may:

  • Disallow only that part of the will that is successfully challenged;
  • Admit a prior valid will in the contested will’s place;
  • Determine that the decedent died intestate and distribute the assets according to California’s intestate succession laws; and/or
  • Characterize the property in the estate for distribution among legal beneficiaries.

The team at Catalano & Catalano is highly experienced and has litigated matters in all courts throughout the State of California. Our team can handle any matter involving Wills, Trusts and Estate Litigation and will help resolve your dispute in the most efficient and effective manner. If you suspect irregularities in the preparation of a will and require assistance contesting it, or if a will in which you are named is being unfairly contested and you require assistance defending it, please contact the Law Firm of Catalano & Catalano.