If you recently lost a loved one, condolences are in order. Even if his or her death was not unexpected, it probably still hurts, and you will grieve in your own time. At some point, whether you are ready or not, the executor of that person's will may file it with the court in order to begin the probate, during which the court will ultimately distribute all property in accordance with that document.
As an heir and/or beneficiary, you may receive a copy of the will or at least receive the opportunity to read it. When you do, you realize that something just isn't right. Its contents make you question whether the will is valid, but you aren't sure if your suspicions are backed up by a legal reason to challenge the will.
Perhaps the most common objection to a will
It's possible that the most common reason that people question the validity of a will is due to questions regarding the decedent's testamentary capacity, or the person's ability to understand what he or she was doing at the time of the execution of the will.
Perhaps your loved one suffered from dementia, Alzheimer's or some other degenerative condition that altered his or her ability to make sound decisions. If you can show the following, a California court may invalidate the will:
- Your loved one couldn't possibly have known who his or her beneficiaries are.
- Your loved one didn't know who his or her heirs are.
- Your loved one didn't understand what a will does.
- Your loved one didn't understand the property distributions in the will.
- Your loved one didn't understand the value and extent of his or her property.
- Your loved one didn't understand how all of the above related to the distribution of property.
If someone had executed the will presented to you during a time you know your loved one was dealing with incapacitation, that would be a place to start questioning the veracity of the will.
Other reasons why a will may not be valid
Outside of testamentary capacity, the following reasons could also affect the validity of the will:
- Another family member or someone outside the family unduly influenced your loved one.
- Someone forged your family member's signature.
- Someone convinced your loved one to sign the will through fraudulent means.
- The will lacks the appropriate number of witness signatures.
- The will is either not notarized or does not contain a self-proving affidavit.
- The will did not contain the legal elements needed to make it valid.
Before going to the court to challenge the will, it may be beneficial to get a second opinion regarding whether grounds exist to challenge its validity.