When a person dies with a will in California, the will must pass through probate court before any assets listed in the will are distributed to the identified beneficiaries. While the will is in probate court, any interested party can contest the validity of the will.
Interested parties include all beneficiaries named in the lawsuit. They also include individuals who are not in the will but who would be entitled to a portion of the decedent’s assets had the decedent not had a will under California law, such as a person’s children. If the decedent owes a debt to someone at the time of death, any creditor who is owed money would also be an interested party.
An interested party who wants to challenge a will must file probate litigation. When a will is contested, all interested parties must be notified of the litigation. A creditor who is owed money from the decedent’s estate will need to be paid off with the decedent’s assets before those assets can be distributed, which is one reason why a creditor may intervene in the probate process.
Wills can also be contested if the person who died was coerced to sign or if someone took advantage of the decedent in convincing that person to change the will. If an elderly or otherwise incapacitated person was not of sound mind at the time a revision to the will was made, that will could be contested. Additionally, if there are multiple trusts or wills, litigation may be necessary to determine which one to enforce, particularly if different documents were created in different states under different state laws. Someone who believes that his or her loved one’s will is invalid for any reason may want to consult with a California attorney experienced in probate litigation.