The idea of spending years preparing a will that outlines your final wishes only to have it be contested may seem unthinkable, but it happens more often than many realize. After J. Howard Marshall II passed away on August 4, 1995, his will was contested by his widow, Anna Nicole Smith, and his oldest son J. Howard Marshall III. The dispute lasted decades with two of the parties (Anna Nicole Smith and named heir Pierce Marshall) passing away prior to a final ruling being made. Preparing yourself by being aware of reasons that your will might be contested can help you better protect your beneficiaries.


If it is believed that you were tricked into signing your will, then it may be contested for suspicion of fraud. If a Testator (a person who has made a will or given a legacy) is given a document that they are told is a power of attorney or some other document when it is actually a will, and they sign the will unknowingly, then that will is fraudulent. Unfortunately, since the Testator has passed away and is unable to answer questions about what was signed, it is difficult to prove whether or not fraud was involved. A person contesting your will by claiming it is fraudulent may need to present witnesses who can give testimony.

Not Properly Signed

Each state has its own requirements regarding properly signing a will in order for that will to be valid. While California does not require a will to be notarized, it does need to be witnessed by two people who sign your will. Not having the correct number of witnesses or failing to have your witnesses sign your will could lead to your will being found invalid. This can occur if your will was contested for a separate reason and during the course of the proceedings the court realizes the will was not signed properly.

Unduly Influenced

Elder abuse is an issue that has become more prevalent as more people in the United States reach retirement age. The abuse can occur in various forms including physical or financial. In both cases, abuse could lead to an older adult being forced to change his or her will because of pressure from others. If it is believed that someone has taken advantage of your mental state or physical frailty and influenced you are your final wishes, then your will might be contested.

Preserving Your Final Wishes

The will you create is meant to reflect your final wishes and it is important that you record them in a way that reduces the chances of future litigation. Seeking the assistance of a qualified estate lawyer can help ensure that your estate is administered properly after your passing. MMZ Law can work with you to identify any potential issues within your estate plan that might lead to it being contested in the future. Our team is ready to answer any questions that you have and address your concerns. Contact our conveniently located Claremont, California office today to schedule a consultation.

*We service Elder Law through Medi-Cal Asset Protection Planning



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.