The challenging of a person’s last will and testament has very particular rules that must be followed. In spite of what the general public and Hollywood seem to think, you cannot barge into an attorney’s offices, black veil aflutter, and demand that the reading of a will be stopped at once simply because you do not want your long-lost brother to inherit the family jewels.
In California, a person’s last will and testament may be called into question for any one of four different reasons, any one of which will be extremely difficult to show in court. What this means is that the contestation of a will is usually a long and arduous matter that ends up taking a great amount of time to settle. If one of the four benchmarks for the contestation of a will is determined to be legitimate, then a last will and testament can be considered void.
When a will is nullified in this way, it does not eradicate just the one single term that was called into question to begin with. Rather, the entire document is rejected and the California courts will move forward from that point as if the deceased had passed on without leaving a will.
State Law Was Not Followed When The Will Was Signed
Every state in America has very distinct laws that decree what constitutes a legal signing of a person’s last will and testament. For instance, in California, in order to be valid, a last will and testament must be signed by two distinct witnesses, both of whom hold no stake in the will, and who sign the document in the presence of each other and the testator. The law stipulates that the will must also be a written document. An oral document will not be given any merit by the courts.
Testator Was Not “Of Sound Mind and Body”
Despite their cliched nature, last wills and testaments begin with the “of sound mind and body” phrase for a reason. Part of the legality of a last will and testament depends on the mental clarity of the testator during the time that the document was drafted. What this means is that the testator needs to be mentally aware enough to understand what assets they legally own, the cost of those assets, and who would be the reasonable heir or heirs for those assets. The testator must also grasp the legal implications of what they are writing and/or signing.
This capacity for “sound mind,” which is legally designated “testamentary capacity” can be a genuine wild card. In the majority of states, the requirements for whether or not a person is mentally capable of understanding all of these things are very sparse. For example, in the state of California, a testator could display clear symptoms of early onset dementia and still be found to have the requisite testamentary capacity to legally write and sign their own will.
Here at Levia Law Firm, our California will and probate attorneys treat their clients like family. We have a skilled and professional team of will and probate attorneys that have years of experience in managing estate planning matters for people and ensuring that their every wish is outlined in clear, iron-clad detail.
For a free consultation with one of our licensed last will and testament attorneys in California, please give us a call at (818) 703-1777 and we will be happy to go over the specifics of your case with you.