California Attorneys for Contesting a Will

Disagreements over the validity of a loved one’s last will and testament following their passing can disrupt a family permanently. Not only can contesting a will be a lengthy legal process — but the emotional and economic consequences can be significant for the parties involved. At White and Bright, LLP, our trust and estate litigation attorneys have the knowledge, sensitivities, and insight to assist clients with these difficult matters. Whether you are the party raising a challenge to a will or defending against a will contest, our legal team will work diligently to safeguard your interests and achieve a positive result in your case.

Knowledgeable Counsel for Will Contests

Contesting a will can be a complex process — and there are a number of nuances involved. Before a will can be contested, it must be submitted to the probate court so that a judge can determine whether the instrument is valid. The court will then set a hearing at which the will's authenticity will be determined. It is at this hearing that interested parties have an opportunity to challenge the validity of the will or the provisions it contains.

Will contests may involve a variety of claims. However, a party cannot contest a will simply because they are not satisfied with what they were bequeathed. Under California law, a will can only be invalidated based on the following grounds:

  • Failure to meet required formalities — Critically, a will must be in writing, signed, and attested to by two competent witnesses. If a last will and testament does not comply with California state law requirements, it will not be valid.
  • Lack of testamentary capacity — An individual must be of sound mind and over the age of 18 when they sign a last will and testament. Importantly, they must understand the provisions of the will and the effect of the document.
  • Undue influence on the testator — A will can be challenged if someone else asserted undue influence and the will did not reflect the testator’s true wishes.
  • Fraud — If someone else manipulated the testator, altered the document, or forged the testator’s signature, the will would be invalid.
  • Revocation — If there was a subsequent will or the testator had intended to revoke the document in question, grounds may exist to contest a will based on revocation.
  • Mistake — In the event there was a mistake in the document, or the testator included an ambiguous provision, the will may be invalidated.

The facts and circumstances surrounding a will contest are different in every case. In addition to the above grounds, a will contest can involve claims that the will was not properly administered. For instance, if the executor failed to follow the terms of the will, the interested parties might pursue legal action.

The attorneys at White and Bright represent clients who are initiating claims involving the validity of California wills, as well as clients who are defending against such claims. Regardless of the circumstances, we are committed to aggressively advocating for each of our clients’ interests, and give due consideration for the unique circumstances a will contest can present.

Protecting Your Interests and Preserving Your Family Relationships

While our goal is to represent our clients to the best of our ability, this doesn’t only entail prevailing in the courtroom. It also involves helping to preserve valuable family relationships whenever possible. At White and Bright, we work closely with our clients to explore potential alternatives to litigation when contesting a will, such as mediation, to help resolve will contests amicably, efficiently, and cost-effectively.

Mediation is a non-adversarial process that can provide families with a safe space to communicate openly, honestly, and respectfully with one another. Rather than bring your case in front of a judge, mediation uses a neutral third-party called a mediator who helps parties reach a tailored resolution that works for the family and minimizes conflict. Mediation is also confidential, and the details regarding the will contest do not become part of the public record. Because it gives everyone the opportunity to be heard, this process can often lead to more creative solutions than those that would be reached in litigation — but if mediation attempts fail, litigation may be the only option.

At White and Bright, our attorneys are dedicated to offering our clients the guidance they need as they go through the legal process of contesting a will, whether mediation is used or litigation is required. Our clients can rest assured that they have capable counsel by their side who is committed to securing the best outcome in their case.

Contact an Experienced California Trusts and Estates Litigation Attorney

The legal process of contesting a will can be complex and it’s essential to have skillful representation who can advise you and advocate for your interests. At White and Bright, LLP, we assist clients with a wide variety of trusts and estates disputes, including those involving will contests. We welcome you to contact us online or call us at (760) 747-3200 to learn more about our trusts and estates litigation services.