Grounds for Contesting a Will


If you're working with a Pasadena estate planning attorney, it's important that you understand the grounds on which a will can be challenged in court.

There are currently four grounds on which a will can be challenged:

  1. Lack of capacity: A will is not valid if the person who created it is not mentally capable of making informed decisions regarding the distribution of his or her assets.
  2. Undue influence: Wills can be successfully challenged if there is proof that someone pressured the deceased into making changes.
  3. Fraud: A will is not valid if the deceased was tricked into signing, perhaps by being told it was some other legal document.
  4. Improper execution: For a will to be legally valid, it must abide by all relevant state laws.

Challenges to a will are most common when one party receives significantly more than the other heirs or if someone who had anticipated being left an inheritance has been left out of the will completely. To avoid potential problems, it's best to sit down with your heirs and explain any potentially controversial decisions in your will. Do not assume that your heirs will automatically understand that one of their siblings is receiving a larger inheritance because she is a single mom without the benefit of a spouse's income to meet her children's needs, or that you've chosen to reward your adult son who sacrificed lucrative promotion opportunities at work to help care for you in your last years. If you're upfront about the reasoning for the distribution of your assets, your heirs will be more likely to respect your will as it is written.

A will may also be contested if heirs suspect that elder abuse played a role in how the provisions of the will were written. If fraud and/or undue influence relating to elder abuse are suspected, it may be possible to file criminal charges against the perpetrator as well.

How Can We Help?

Consulting an experienced estate planning attorney is the best way to ensure that you’ll be prepared no matter what the future holds. If you are in need of legal representation relating to an estate planning issue, please call our office at (626) 683-8113 or email us at