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Contesting a will

Individuals and family members in California who feel a will is incorrect or unfair may choose to contest, or challenge, it. It can be difficult to properly contest a will, and it is not successful in most circumstances. It is important to know who can contest it and for what reasons.

According to Consumer Reports, only an interested party can take part in contesting a will. While an interested party does not have to be related to the deceased, he or she does have to be someone who would inherit by law or is already in the will. State laws determine exactly what a surviving spouse is entitled to inherit, but many of them ensure that the spouse is due a certain minimum amount, so if the will does not demonstrate that, the spouse can often successfully challenge it.

FindLaw outlines a number of reasons why a will may be contested. The grounds for challenge include:

  • Undue influence - often resulting in a successful overturn, this is when the will writer was manipulated into leaving most or all of their estate with the manipulator
  • Lack of testamentary capacity - another reason that is highly successful in a challenge, this means that the person who created the will was not in their right mind, whether due to drug influence, dementia, senility or insanity
  • Insufficient witnesses - most states require a certain number of witnesses, who are not named heirs, to be present during the will's signing
  • The will is outdated - if there is a newer will than the one being executed, the most recent one is usually honored 

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