In California, you can contest a will; however, it must be under certain circumstances and you must petition a probate court as soon as possible.
Grounds for Contesting
A will contest will be accepted by a court if you can prove any of the following:
- the will is fraudulent;
- the will fails to meet legal standards in the state of its creation;
- the will was created under coercion; and/or
- the will was created when the deceased was not mentally competent.
The court may accept other similar reasons for the will contest, but you cannot contest for a frivolous reason such as believing the terms aren’t fair.
Additionally, you are obligated to prove the above grounds if you are contesting the will. For example, if you are trying to prove the deceased wasn’t mentally competent when they created the will, you may need a witness testimony or medical records.
Limits for Contesting
California enforces a time limit on will contests based on where the estate is in the probate process. For example, you can contest the will as soon as the deceased has passed on by filing an objection to the petition for probate. If the executor has already filed a petition for probate, you must file your objection before the hearing date. If you would like to contest the will after the hearing has taken place, you can only do so 120 days from the start date of the hearing.
A no-contest clause is meant to discourage someone from contesting a will. Usually, this clause will punish the person seeking the clause by disinheriting them from the estate. Whether or not a court decides to uphold the clause depends on the clause’s wording and the situation surrounding the contest. However, interested parties can challenge documents related to the will and seek a compromise without violating the terms of the clause.
At Cecil Cianci Law, PC, we can help you construct a legally sound will that decreases the chances of a contest. We can guide you through the entire process and ensure your specific wishes are met.
Contact our firm online or call us at (916) 675-3866 for a legal consultation.