How to Contest a Will in California

By Teo Spengler

TV sitcoms often portray prodigal children and ex-wives of dead millionaires bringing out the boxing gloves when the will comes out. Reality is no less dramatic to the people involved. In California, only interested people may contest a will -- close relatives or persons standing to inherit under an alternate will. Many will contests in California are filed by disappointed heirs. Since will contests follow strict probate code procedures, many litigants use lawyers. Even so, according to the Superior Court, County of Santa Clara, few people win a will contest.

Step 1

Read the California probate code will contest provisions -- especially sections 8250-8254 -- to determine whether you have standing and grounds to bring a will contest. Use the California court self-help centers to complete research and to obtain legal forms as well as state probate court rules (see Resources). Familiarize yourself with the local rules and procedures of the probate court in which the will was filed.

Step 2

Ascertain the time period within which you may file an objection to the will. While this period varies between jurisdictions, It usually runs about two weeks from the date the will is filed with the probate court. Within that time period, prepare and file an objection describing your standing to contest the will, the will provisions you are contesting and the grounds for your objection. The court will set a hearing date and summon all interested parties to a hearing on your objection.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan

Step 3

Review any material sent to you by opposing parties. If a party files a demurrer to your objection -- a document arguing that your objection is flawed -- the court may give you time to rewrite your objection. Redraft your papers carefully to meet the objection.

Step 4

Prepare your case. Assemble documents and witnesses supporting your position. Respond to any proper discovery documents sent to you by opposing parties. Prepare your own requests for information according to local rules and procedures.

Step 5

Appear at the will contest hearing with all evidence you have amassed and all relevant witnesses. Ask the witnesses questions and present evidence as directed by the court. In California, a will contestant has the burden of convincing the court of most grounds for a will contest.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan
How to Contest a Will in Oregon



Related articles

Are Wills Public Record in California?

Neither the California Public Records Act nor the federal Freedom of Information Act applies to court documents. However, the California court system provides public access to all court documents not specifically made private by state statute. Thus, a last will and testament becomes a public document in California the minute it is filed in probate, absent a court order to the contrary.

How to Contest a Will Due to Undue Influence

The Supreme Court's statement about pornography -- "I can't define it but I know it when I see it" -- fits the doctrine of undue influence. Every person making a will is influenced by others, but only excessive influence invalidates a will or bequest. Undue influence occurs when a testator’s free will is usurped by the will of another, according to the American Bar Association. Courts hearing undue influence charges look at the relationship between the parties, the susceptibility of the testator and the opportunity of the named heir to exert pressure.

How to Write a Last Will

Fewer than half of American adults have a last will and testament, according to the American Bar Association. One possible explanation is the misconception that wills are complex and require expensive legal assistance. However, you can draft a simple will in a few hours. A will is a legal document that describes how you want your property distributed after your death. Writing a last will is straightforward and gives you control over the disbursement of your estate to your heirs.

LegalZoom. Legal help is here. Start Here. Wills. Trusts. Attorney help.

Related articles

How to Contest Wills in New Jersey

You can challenge the validity of a will being offered for probate in New Jersey if you are considered a person with an ...

How to File a Written Answer to a Divorce Petition

You must file a written answer to a divorce petition as soon as possible to avoid missing the court deadline for the ...

How to Contest a Will in Probate

While TV sitcoms portray feuding children of dead millionaires duking it out in probate court, reality is often more ...

How to File Custody Papers in Oregon

Filing for divorce can be incredibly painful, particularly if children involved. In Oregon, divorce and custody ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED