When oil tycoon H.L. Hunt, the one-time richest man in the United States, passed away in 1974, his final wishes appeared to be in perfect order. The multi-billionaire left behind multiple trusts to provide for his children and grandchildren, seemingly ensuring that his fortune would pass without issue to his heirs. However, H.L.’s oldest great-grandchild contested the will in 2008, suing his father, sisters, and other relatives and accusing them of mismanaging the estate. The result was the disinheritance of certain heirs, multiple fraud indictments, and a scandal that shocked Texas high society.
While your own estate being contested may not lead to a nationwide scandal, it could still cause multiple problems for your heirs. Understanding how someone could contest your will can help you better plan for your future and preserve your legacy.
Finding a Cause
Prior to contesting your will a person must usually find a cause or reason to initiate the process. These reasons are then presented in court to show why your will should not be considered valid. Common causes for contesting a will are:
- Suspected forgery;
- Undue influence;
- Various types of fraud;
- Improper execution of the will.
In some cases, the will is contested simply because the mistake (such as improper execution) is obvious or noticed by an attorney during probate court.
The person who contests your will must prove that he or she has the legal right to do so. Only a person who has “standing” (meaning he or she stands to benefit) may contest a will. Prior to initiating a court action, you must be able to show that if the existing will is found to be invalid, you are someone who would benefit from the change to the will. If you are not anyone who stands to inherit or otherwise benefit from changes to the will, then you are not usually allowed to contest it.
Officially Challenge the Will
Once you have decided that you would like to contest a will in California, you must initiate the process legally by filing the correct forms. The petition must be filed in probate court in a timely fashion by an heir, beneficiary, or creditor. There is a limited time frame during which a will can be contested, and contesting a will should be a person’s last resort. Though the probate court may assist you in finding the correct petitions or advising you of time frames, they cannot provide any legal advice.
Contact an Attorney Immediately
When a person is contesting a petition in California, time is of the essence. It is of vital importance that you speak to an elder law attorney as quickly as possible to avoid missing deadlines. The attorneys at MMZ Law understand that when a will must be contested, there is no time to waste. We are here to discuss your situation with you and provide you with advice that best suits your unique case. Contact us today to schedule an initial consultation at our Claremont, California location so that we can begin providing you with the legal representation you deserve.
BROUGHT TO YOU BY:
MMZ LAW, A PROFESSIONAL CORPORATION
341 W. 1st St. Suite 100
Claremont, CA 91711
MARIVEL M. ZIALCITA is the founder of MMZ LAW, A Professional Corporation, where she practices in the areas of Elder Law – Medi-Cal Planning Asset Protection, Trust & Estate, Special Needs, Conservatorship, Trust Administration, & Probate. Ms. Zialcita is a frequent speaker on trust and estate matters and holds memberships in the State Bar of California, Trust and Estate Section, The San Bernardino County Bar Association, Wealth Counsel and Elder Counsel. She currently assists in the pro bono legal services program at the James L. Brulte Senior Center in Rancho Cucamonga, California. She is based in Claremont but assists clients throughout Southern California.
This information is educational information only and not legal advice.