Drafting and Challenging Wills: How An Estate Attorney Can Help

Updated: Apr 22

Creation, Contests, And Inheritance Claims In California

Wills and trusts and the probate process, in general, can be the most effective and least cumbersome way to ensure that a decedent's properties are transferred to families, associates, and institutions. What happens, though, when bad actors are involved? Or whether the most recent Will or Trust fails due to the decedent's inability to execute the documents due to mental or physical incapacity? People can be persuaded to act against their will by deception, bribery, and undue control. Caregivers, neighbors, and "mates" may build an atmosphere where family members are either not welcome or physically excluded. These bad actors than "assist" the individuals in drafting a new Will or Trust that excludes the family and helps only the wrongdoer.

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Many times, people would have well-drafted, carefully considered estate documents prepared at a time when they are capable of putting together an estate plan and comprehending the consequences of their choices. However, as strangers intrude into the lives of the sick and elderly, new estate documents often appear after the individual has passed away. Unfortunately, as the victim of a bad person who has fraudulently taken control of your family's assets, you must bear the burden of proof.

For surviving family members and loved ones, the period following the death of a loved one is always a confusing time. The legalities that must be resolved can often overwhelm the mourning phase. If you have cause to doubt the authenticity of the decedent's Last Will and Testament, for example, you must act on your doubts quickly or forever waive your right to do so. The time limit for contesting a Will in California is determined by when the Last Will and Testament document is sent to the Probate Court in the county where the decedent died for probate administration.

What Is Probate and How Does It Work?

When anyone dies, the estate of the deceased will be expected to go through probate. The size of the estate and how the decedent held title to assets determine if the estate would go through probate. Certain estate planning strategies, such as a revocable living trust, will help you escape the need for probate. If a Will is discovered, it is filed with the proper probate court, along with a petition to open probate and a certified copy of the decedent's death record. Probate serves a number of purposes, including authorizing creditors to file lawsuits against the estate and ultimately passing estate properties to beneficiaries and/or heirs. However, the probate court's first duty is to authenticate the decedent's Last Will and Testament. This is also the moment when doubts about the will's validity will arise.