Trust, Estate, and Probate Litigation is a Specialized Area of Law
To successfully navigate this area, an attorney must have an in-depth knowledge of trusts, wills, estates, and probate, as well as an in-depth understanding of the complex litigation rules in California (including motion practice, discovery, and trial). It is the combination of expertise in these areas that sets the attorneys at Temmerman, Cilley & Kohlmann, LLP apart. We have extensive experience litigating probate and trust cases generally and WILL contests in particular.
A WILL contest is a challenge to the validity of a WILL. These challenges are made by potential beneficiaries and heirs attempting to invalidate an existing WILL. Under the California Probate Code, any “interested party” may contest a WILL. An interested party is any person who has a pecuniary (financial) interest in the WILL that would be defeated or impaired if the WILL were determined to be valid.
The California Probate Code requires that the challenge to the validity of a WILL must be made in the Probate Court within a specified time from either: (1) the notice of death, or (2) the petition to admit the WILL to probate. If you are interested in challenging or supporting the validity of a WILL, you should contact an attorney at Temmerman, Cilley & Kohlmann, LLP as soon as possible to assist in determining these time frames, as late claims may not be heard by the Court.
If the Probate Court determines that a WILL is invalid, the court may: (1) invalidate the entire WILL and distribute the estate under the laws of intestacy (as if no WILL existed), or (2) invalidate only the challenged provisions of the WILL.
A WILL contest may be made for a variety of reasons. Legal grounds for a WILL contest include, but are not necessarily limited to:
- Improperly drawn, witnessed or executed documents
- Lack of capacity
- Fraud, duress, force or undue influence
Assisting with Will and Trust Contests in California
A will is the central component of most estate plans. But simply having a will is not always enough to avoid disputes during the probate process. The validity of a will is open to challenge by any interested person and for a variety of reasons. Whether you are an interested party seeking to challenge the validity of a will or a personal representative defending the validity of a will, it is wise to seek advice from a qualified San Jose or Danville wills lawyer like the ones at Temmerman, Cilley & Kohlmann, LLP.
A will contest — usually brought by a person named in the will or someone who would have received property under a previous will — can be very contentious and complex. Will contests often involve trials where evidence must be presented about the circumstances under which the decedent signed the will, the state of mind of the decedent at that time, and actions by others that may have influenced the decedent. This may involve the presentation of documentary and physical evidence as well as witness testimony. For these reasons, it is highly advisable to seek representation from a wills lawyer in San Jose and Danville. At Temmerman, Cilley & Kohlmann, LLP, our litigation team of attorneys are experienced litigators. Serving Fremont, Walnut Creek, Danville, Santa Clara, San Mateo, Alameda, Contra Costa, Santa Cruz, Monterey, San Francisco, and other counties, we have the experience necessary to effectively advocate on behalf of our clients at trial.
Grounds for Contesting a Will
You can contest a will in California on various grounds. First, a San Jose and Danville wills attorney may argue that the will was not signed in accordance with state law. The California Probate Code requires that a will be signed by the testator, or by another in the presence of the testator and at the testator’s direction, or by a conservator for the testator.
At least two witnesses must also sign, unless the material provisions of the will are written in the handwriting of the testator. A will that does not meet these requirements faces a challenge. The personal representative of the estate, with the help of a wills attorney in San Jose and Danville, must prove by clear and convincing evidence that the testator intended the document to be their will.
A wills attorney may challenge the validity of a will based on the state of mind of the testator at the time of signing. A person must be competent — that is, able to understand the nature and significance of their actions — at the time they sign a will. Wills or individual provisions of wills are not valid if the testator signed by mistake or due to deceit, threat, or undue influence from another. A person challenging a will on any of these grounds has the burden of proving that such conditions existed.
Experienced estate attorneys in San Jose and Danville protecting the rights of clients in litigation
The wills attorneys of Temmerman, Cilley & Kohlmann, LLP have the litigation experience to effectively represent clients during will contests. Whether you are a proponent or a challenger of a will, our San Jose and Danville estate planning lawyers are available to consult with you at our offices — located at 2502 Stevens Creek Boulevard, San Jose, CA 95128 and 140 Town and Country Drive, Suite A, Danville, CA 94526 — or at any other convenient location. Call our San Jose office at 408-290-7210, our Danville office at 925-233-4399 or contact Temmerman, Cilley & Kohlmann, LLP online.