Probate court is the venue in which a decedent’s estate is settled and the Last Will and Testament is verified and executed. Once all probate obligations are satisfied, benefits and inheritances are distributed to the beneficiaries. Some estate-planning documents may preclude a decedent’s estate from having to pass through probate court, such as a Trust. 

If you do have to deal with the state probate system in order to settle a loved one’s estate, understand that the probate court’s decision may be appealed. However, there are specific grounds that are required in order to successfully appeal a probate court’s decision. 

Before Filing, Determine the Grounds

Unfortunately, a strong disagreement with the probate court’s decision or the execution of an estate is not sufficient to appeal. Challenging the validity of the Will is a common reason for appealing a probate court decision. Legal and procedural errors are often the subject of probate court appeals. 

Filing Your Appeal

If you truly feel you have a case to appeal the decision of a probate court, time is of the essence. In most cases, the appellant has only 30 days to file an appeal after the decision is handed down. The appellate brief must be filed in the superior court in the same jurisdiction that the original judgment was entered. In addition to the appellate brief, a Notice of Appeal must be filed with the lower court. This notice informs all interested parties of the appeal and usually stays the decision until the appeal is ruled upon. 

How Can the Decision Be Overturned?

As with any legal appeal, undoing the work of the lower court is an uphill battle. There are two main grounds that can result in overturning a probate court’s decision in superior court. The first one is that a prejudicial error occurred. This means that a mistake was made by the judge or counsel that caused harm to the appellant. 

The other type of mistake that may be persuadable to the appellate court is that there was not substantial evidence to support the lower court’s decision. Again, the burden of proof is on the appellant to show that there was not reasonable evidence in support of the probate decision. 


Appealing any court decision is difficult and complex. It requires the legal guidance of an experienced California estate-planning attorney. Looking for one that treats you with dignity and compassion while aggressively fighting for you in court? Reach out to MMZ Law to get started with a free consultation.