Temmerman, Cilley & Kohlmann, LLP - Estate Planning

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Common reasons for will contests

You can never fully prepare for how the people in your life will react to your death. The hope is that everyone will respect your planning and distribute your estate according to your wishes.

Even after careful estate planning, it is possible that a will contest may happen.

Lack of capacity

The most common basis for contesting a will is lack of capacity. This is a claim that the person who created the will was suffering from dementia, Alzheimer’s, the effects of a stroke or suffered another medical cause for diminished capacity and understanding. A person who is incapable of understanding what they are creating or signing cannot make a valid will.

Undue influence

Undue influence is a claim that the person did not create the will under their own free will. They suffered pressure, manipulation or threats to leave something to someone, and that without that influence they would not have done so. The undue influence could come from anyone, including legal heirs. This is similar to the claim of lack of capacity in that the person who created the will may not have been in a position to resist.

Lack of valid execution

There are several requirements a will must meet to be valid in California. The creator of the will must be at least 18 years old. The will must be handwritten. Once handwritten, signed and dated by the creator, it is a holographic will. A typed will, or a will prepared for the creator, is not valid unless signed by the creator and two witnesses who do not benefit from the will. If these requirements are not met, the will was not validly executed.

Will contests can arise when people become disappointed with their inheritance. Heirs may contest a will if one receives more than others. Someone named in an earlier will, but not the final will, may claim the omission is a mistake. Be as clear as possible in the language of your will. If you suspect that challenges may occur, include a detailed letter explaining your choices.