When a California resident passes away, their heirs are not always happy with the terms of the decedent’s last will and testament. However, that does not mean they can take legal action to contest the will and seek more than their allotted inheritance. Will contests are permitted in California, but only certain people can initiate this kind of litigation, and only for a handful of reasons.
Who can contest a will in California?
Under California law, only named beneficiaries, the decedent’s heirs and the estate’s creditors can challenge a will. A relative is considered an heir if they would have inherited money or assets from the estate if the decedent had died without leaving a will. If somebody you are not related to promised to leave you money in their will and then did not, you would not be able to mount a legal challenge in California.
Grounds for challenging a will in California
Will contests are only successful in California when certain grounds can be established. The person mounting the will contest must prove that the decedent was not of sound mind when they signed the will, the will was signed under duress, the decedent was under the undue influence of others when the will was drafted or the will is defective in some way. To be valid in California, a will must be in writing, signed by the decedent and two witnesses and contain precise language that identifies the beneficiaries.
Avoiding will contests
If you want to avoid disputes between your heirs after you pass away, you should draft a valid will and let your beneficiaries know what to expect. You could also place your assets into one or more trusts. Doing this would give you more control over how and when your assets are distributed, and it could also allow your estate to be administered without the need for probate.