A will is supposed to be a document through which a decedent communicates their desire for the disposition of their assets and property. In California a person must have the requisite mental capacity and be at least 18 years of age in order to create a valid will. However, even a properly executed will may face challenges by those who stand to inherit, or not inherit, under the terms of the testamentary document. This post will discuss several grounds on which a will may be challenged but will not provide a comprehensive discussion of this detailed topic.
One way that a will may be challenged is by proving that the will’s creator did not have the requisite capacity to sign off on the contents of the will. A person who challenges the will may claim that the decedent suffered from a disorder that impaired their understanding of the contents of their will or that they otherwise did not know what they were agreeing to by signing the document.
A will may also be challenged by stating that the decedent was pressured or forced into signing their will. There are unfortunate cases of individuals being coerced into leaving assets to individuals who otherwise would not be included in the decedent’s testamentary plans. Force, coercion or threats may not be used to provoke an individual to sign a will.
Finally, a will may be challenged if it can be demonstrated that another will, possibly drafted after the challenged document, is the actual final will and testament of the decedent. A person cannot have more than one will, and if multiple documents are located a challenge may be lodged regarding which is the correct final version.
In order to avoid future challenges to one’s will it can be helpful to consult with an estate planning attorney. An attorney can support their clients as they prepare their estate plans and ensure that the legal requirements of their testamentary tools are properly met.