Estate planning and avoiding the risk of a will being contested

When moving forward with estate planning in California, the goal is to address all the issues the person – the testator – is concerned with. Still, there can be problems with a will if people who believe they should have received certain properties feel as though they were left out unfairly. To avoid this, it is important to craft an estate plan that is shielded from being challenged.

There are people who have standing to contest a will. A person who is an heir-at-law has that right. There must be a justification to challenge the will. Simply being displeased with what the will says is not enough. The person contesting must prove that there was duress or other issues when it was written so it can be declared invalid.

If there was a previous will that was changed, there could be sufficient cause to contest if a person has his or her share of the estate reduced in the subsequent will. People who were not named as beneficiaries in a previous will or are not an heir-in-law will generally be unable to challenge a will. Some wills are designed so they cannot be contested. This is a “no contest” clause saying that a beneficiary will lose any inheritance if they seek to contest it and lose.

A basic objective of estate planning is to distribute the property as the testator wants. That could mean some people – even close relatives – do not get what they think they should. It is imperative to complete a document that adheres to the law and is structured so there is no cause to contest it. Estate planning documents may require legal advice. A consultation could provide information on wills, trusts and other strategies for an estate plan.