One of the reasons individuals draft wills is to clarify what they’d like to happen with their possessions when they’re gone. Anyone who dies without a will in place runs the risk of having a probate judge divide their assets per California’s intestate succession laws.
A will is only valid when a testator executes it per state law. Legal battles may get underway if this doesn’t happen. There are steps that you can take to minimize the chances of your loved ones contesting your will.
Why do wills get contested?
There is a multitude of reasons why wills get contested, including if an heir or interested party:
- Discovers that a testator drafted a will more recently than the one filed with the probate court.
- Questions whether a testator may have voluntarily signed their will or had the mental capacity to execute it.
A dispute over a will’s validity can also occur if the right amount of witnesses weren’t present at its signing, it has contradictory terms or invalid clauses.
Can testators avoid contested wills?
Testators can take steps to reduce the chances their estate will end up in a legal dispute over a contested will by:
- Using clear language in their will, including heirs’ full names and a detailed inventory of their assets and how they are to be disbursed.
- Clearly detailing any heirs excluded from receiving an inheritance in your will.
- Ensuring that they know what makes a will valid in California and how many witnesses need to be present at its execution.
- Naming a reliable executor and an alternate (in case something happens to their first choice).
You should regularly review your estate plan, including your will, to ensure that it reflects your latest preferences.
Is your will air-tight?
While almost anyone may attempt to contest a will if it doesn’t favor them, the probate judge presiding over your case won’t get very far in doing so if your estate plan is well-crafted. It’s important that you ensure that your will complies with California law if you wish to have a judge uphold it when it comes time.