“What is the meaning of contesting a will?”
To contest a will means to legally challenge the legitimacy of a will in probate court. There are several different reasons for contesting a will — many of which involve the mental incapacitation, incapacity, or physical incapacity of the person making the will. Separately, the elderly and infirm are prone to medical conditions which may make them more susceptible to undue influence by those seeking to benefit from their impaired judgment. We often see cases where a will was written amended just prior to death, which always raises suspicion and concerns. If a will, amended will, or codicil has very different terms than its previous versions, and disinherits certain beneficiaries while enriching others disproportionately, it may be a sign that an interloper pressured the deceased into making changes at a time when they weren’t mentally equipped to do so, or that the changes they made were not of their own free will. Oftentimes, the elderly and infirm are so dependent upon others for support that they will simply do whatever a key caregiver asks of them, including changing their will.
“How do I contest a will and win?”
The quickest and most honest answer is to find the best Los Angeles probate litigation attorney who has experience working in the Los Angeles Superior Court Probate Division. Look for a Los Angeles probate litigation law firm with a proven track record of winning will contests in that court. Don’t be shy about asking them about their track record and what reasonable expectations should be for your case.
“10 Steps to Win a Will Contest in Los Angeles”
1. Determine whether you are someone who can contest the will. If you are not a family member or creditor, and have never been designated as a beneficiary in any version of the will, understand that you likely do not have standing – i.e. the ability – to contest it..
2. Obtain a copy of the disputed will and all former or different versions of it.
3. Review the will and any former versions of it to see what changes have been made and how they affect your and others;
4. Gather any documentation suggesting that the deceased was not of sound mind, was unduly influenced, or the victim of fraud or forgery when creating the version of the will that is disadvantageous to you.
5. Act quickly. As soon as a loved one passes away, get a free consultation with the best Los Angeles probate attorney practicing in the Los Angeles Superior Court Probate Division.
6. Listen to your lawyer’s honest assessment of your case, and decide if the potential financial and emotional costs of litigation justify the potential gain.
7. Consider mediation in lieu of litigation. This is almost always the more cost-effective and lower-stress route.
8. If your lawyer believes you have a winning claim, but no settlement agreement can be reached, be prepared to proceed with litigation.
9. In any case — though it may be tempting — try not to let emotions get the better of you. It is best to let your lawyer do the talking, Do not engage in any behavior that could hurt your case.
10. Be prepared for a long and possibly costly battle. You may well be entitled to your claim, and you may well win in the end, but understand that it may take anywhere from several months to several years for the case to finally get resolved in your favor.
“What are reasons to contest a will?”
The four main grounds for contesting a will are:
1. State-mandated legal formalities, such as the presence of witnesses, were not adhered to at the will’s signing.
2. The person creating the will was mentally incapacitated when they made it.
3. The person creating the will did so because they were coerced or unduly influenced by another interested party who stood to benefit. This, in conjunction with incapacity, is far and away the most common reason for successfully contesting a will.
4. The will was forged or otherwise created by fraudulent means.
“Do I need a will contest lawyer in Los Angeles?”
We recommend finding an experienced will contest lawyer familiar with the county probate court in the county where your loved one passed away. For example, if the will’s executor lives in Miami, Florida, but the deceased died in Los Angeles, California, we recommend working with a probate litigation attorney in Los Angeles. A Los Angeles probate lawyer will generally be more familiar with the Los Angeles Superior Court Probate Division, versus an out of state attorney.