When Wills are Contested

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Explore:  Estate Planning Wills

Skilled estate planning is essential for ensuring your assets are handled properly and your wealth maximized while you are alive, and for directing the flow of your wealth after you pass away. A well-crafted will is central to good estate planning. Despite the best efforts of all involved, though, some wills are contested.

A number of factors bear on why this can happen. Parties may have reason to believe that a will, or an amendment to a will, is fraudulent or was signed under duress. The mere unhappiness of a party over the terms of a will is insufficient to challenge the validity of the will, however. Legitimate legal concerns that can be raised include:

  • The will is not signed, or appears to be fraudulent or forged.
  • The party signing the will was in ill health and mentally or emotionally vulnerable to persuasion or pressure from caregivers. The individual may have been isolated from family and friends by a caregiver who is now suspected of profiting from pressure placed on the party.
  • The will was signed during a time when the party was mentally incapacitated and unable to understand the actions he or she was taking.

In order to protect vulnerable parties and their families, California probate law prohibits donative transfer to individuals including:

  • The person who drafted the will or their family or any law partnership of an attorney who drafted the will
  • An individual who has a fiduciary relationship with the party signing the will, such as a trustee, or conservator
  • A caregiver on whom the party signing the will is dependent

These are exceptions to this rule but when appropriate, will contests are essential to ensure last wishes are carried out. They can also empty the very coffers intended for beneficiaries.

Topics:  Estate Planning, Wills

Published In: Wills, Trusts, & Estate Planning Updates

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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