A person can contest a will in California based on the circumstances under which the deceased created it or how their executor administered it. But, only a specific group of people that the CA codes Art. 3 Sec. 8251 terms as “interested parties” can challenge a testator’s wishes.
Understanding what the law means by “interested parties”
An interested party is someone with a vested interest in the will’s outcome. They can be:
- A person named in the will as an heir or beneficiary
- A person who would inherit from the deceased under California’s intestacy laws if there was no valid will
- The spouse or domestic partner of the deceased
- The child of the deceased, including an adopted child or a stepchild, if that child would not inherit under intestacy laws
- A grandchild of the deceased, if that grandchild would not inherit under intestacy laws
These individuals generally have standing to contest a will in California. But there are some exceptions. For example, if the testator left them out of a will because they committed a felony, they would not have the standing to contest the will.
There are also some people who may have the standing to contest a will even though they are not specifically named in the California code. They include a creditor of the deceased, a person who loaned money to the deceased with the expectation of being repaid from their estate and a beneficially entitled person under a prior will that a later one revoked.
Challenging a will in California
To contest a will in California, you must open up estate litigation. You can do this by filing a petition with the probate court in the county where the deceased resided. The petition must state your relationship to the deceased and the grounds on which you are contesting the will.
The state laws only allow an interested party to challenge the will if:
- It was not executed properly
- The deceased lacked testamentary capacity when they signed the will
- The deceased created the will as a result of undue influence or duress
- There was fraud or mistake in the creation of the will
If you are successful in contesting a will, the probate court can declare it invalid and set it aside. California intestacy laws will then dictate how the estate representative will administer the estate.