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Who can challenge a will in California?

If you are a California resident who feels you were unfairly provided for or disinherited by someone’s will, you may be considering challenging it. Per A People's Choice, however, in order to do this you must be an interested party. This means that you must be either a family member of the deceased who would have inherited from him or her had there been no will or a non-family member who had reasonable expectations of inheriting from him or her.

For instance, you may know of a previous will that the decedent made in which you were mentioned. In such event you must find the original, not a copy, of it and prove that the decedent never rescinded it. In other words, you must prove that the later will in which you are not mentioned, or under which you inherit less than in the previous will, is invalid.

Subsequent will

Conversely, you may know of a will that the decedent made subsequent to the will in question in which he or she provided for you. In this situation you must find the original of the later will and prove that the decedent rescinded the will in question when he or she executed this later one.

Other reasons to challenge a will

There are other reasons why you may be able to successfully challenge the will that fails to provide for you. Generally, successful will challenges are based on one or more of the following:

  • The decedent lacked the necessary mental capacity to understand what he or she owned and/or who he or she was expected to provide for at the time he or she executed the will.
  • The decedent was under undue influence, such as by a caregiver, at the time he or she executed the will.
  • The decedent was under duress; i.e., coercion, at the time he or she executed the will, such as by being threatened or illegally detained by someone.
  • The decedent executed the will as the result of a fraud perpetrated against him or her by someone else.
  • The decedent made a mistake when executing the will, such as by failing to have it properly witnessed and/or notarized.

While this information should not be taken as legal advice, it can help you understand the will challenge process and what to expect.

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