In California, a will contest involves is an action to determine that a will is unenforceable. A will is unenforceable if not properly executed, or If a testator was unduly influenced into signing the will. Due to fraud or a lack of “testamentary capacity.” If a claimant succeeds in proving that the testator lacked the capacity to execute a Will, or was fraudulently induced into executing the Will, the Will is likely to be determined to be unenforceable.
A common misconception is that “no contest” clauses will prevent a challenge by an interested party. California law has been changed to effectively eliminate, in many cases, the serious impact of challenging a will.
Generally speaking, no contest clauses are only effective in situations where a direct contest is brought without probable cause. Most will contests are “direct contests”, meaning they are brought on the grounds that the will is invalid due to forgery; lack of proper execution; duress, fraud or undue influence; revocation of the will; or disqualification of a beneficiary.
There are several types of trust contests. A trust “contest” involves an attempt by a beneficiary or potential beneficiary to alter the terms of the trust through a forgery, lack of proper execution, lack of capacity, duress, fraud or undue influence, revocation, or disqualification of a beneficiary.
Most often, trust contests are brought on the basis that a trust beneficiary or caretaker exercised “undue influence” over a vulnerable person or parent in order to get a larger share of an inheritance. Whether such claims are valid depends on various factors. While a parent has every legal right to leave his or her estate to any beneficiary he or she chooses, if the gift was not made voluntarily, a court is likely to revoke it.
If you believe that a trust was changed as a result of fraud, duress, or undue influence, or that the person involved lacked mental capacity to change or draft a trust at the time, contact our exerienced attorneys to schedule a free consultation.
If you are a trustee of a trust and are facing a trust challenge, Santiago & Jones will give you guidance through trust administration and defend you against any challenge.