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When can wills be disputed?

When people create wills, they lay out their intentions for the distribution of their assets and property in the event of their passing. Most of the time, California courts will follow the guidelines set out in a will, but there are instances where others may challenge the provisions of a will. The experts say that knowing the reasons wills may be disputed can help both those creating a will and those who may stand to inherit assets from an estate.

Most adults have testamentary capacity, which means they can draw up a legal will for their estate. If a person has any type of cognitive impairment, such as dementia, one could argue that individual does not have testamentary capacity and does not have the ability to understand the different provisions in a will, such as property value and proper beneficiaries. Similarly, one could claim that a will is fraudulent, perhaps because someone exerted undue influence over the will creator.

There may also be challenges to the will itself, such as evidence that it is a forgery or that another will is the valid one. Those who want to avoid this need to ensure their wills are dated and may even want to include instructions that the current will makes all others null and void. Most states also require a minimum of two witnesses to the signing of a will for it to be valid. In the case of a “holographic will,” or one that is handwritten with no witnesses, the state of California will validate this type of will as long as it is in the estate owner’s handwriting.

The reasons to dispute wills can be complicated, but they may make all the difference in the world to a rightful heir. Those here in California who have any type of concern relating to wills or estate plans would do well to consult an experienced estate planning attorney. An attorney can ensure that a will is legal and valid, making it all the more likely that the will owner’s wishes will be honored.

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