When a person dies, his or her will will be administered as written through the probate court in most cases. Courts generally presume that a written will is a valid statement of what the testator wished to happen. Judges will usually strictly follow wills unless an interested person is able to overcome the presumption of the will’s validity.
People may be able to successfully challenge a will in several situations. If they are able to prove to the court that the testator lacked testamentary capacity by being insane, senile or under the influence of substances at the time the will was executed, the contesting party may be successful. The same is true if the challenger is able to prove that the person was vulnerable and coerced into leaving his or her property to a manipulator.
The process is commenced by the challenger filing an objection with the court regarding the probate of the will. Upon filing, the court will schedule a hearing and issue a notice and summons. The challenger must then have copies of the objection, notice of the hearing and summons sent to all interested parties. Any party who wishes to answer the objection must file an answer prior to the hearing date. At the hearing, the court will hear evidence and issue its ruling regarding the validity of the contested will.
While it is often difficult to successfully challenge a will, it is possible to do so. People who wish to draft a will that will hopefully withstand a challenge may benefit by meeting with an estate planning attorney. Such an attorney can in some cases represent a client who is questioning the validity of such a document prepared by a family member.
Source: California Law, “Probate Code Section 8250-8254“, November 01, 2014