During a California will contest, it is not always clear which persons qualify as interested parties. There may be a number of people who are interested parties despite not being listed in the relevant last will and testament. Generally speaking, all people who are members of the decedent’s family qualify as interested parties, or they will be actual parties in a will contest. This is true whether or not they are named in the last will and testament.
People who are listed in the will but who are not family members of the decedent also qualify as interested parties in most cases. Additionally, people who were named in previous versions of the will that is being contested may qualify as interested parties. For this reason, in a case where a person is initiating a will contest, he or she is required to examine previous wills to determine whether there are potentially interested parties named in them.
The question of who is an interested party is important in will contests because interested parties must be given notice of the contest. They are also entitled to an opportunity to be part of the probate litigation is they so choose. Both the person who brings the will contest and the person who defends against it are under an obligation to determine who may have standing to participate as an interested party.
In cases where a person wants to contest a will, an attorney may be able to help. An attorney who handles estate litigation cases might help by examining the estate planning documents of the decedent to determine who has standing as an interested party. He or she might also represent the client during probate litigation and communicate with the court on the client’s behalf. An estate planning attorney might help develop an estate plan that minimizes the likelihood of a will contest in the future.