Often, a beneficiary will challenge a will or a trust for the benefit of multiple beneficiaries, heirs, and family members. At Tomassian, Pimentel & Shapazian, our attorneys work with heirs to resolve will and trust contests swiftly and effectively, often to benefit multiple parties.
A trust contest or a will contest is an attempt to invalidate a will or a trust on specific legal grounds. To learn more about contesting a will or a trust, or to begin legal action, keep reading, and then speak promptly to a Fresno will and trust attorney at Tomassian, Pimentel & Shapazian.
A will or a trust may be changed, for example, to the benefit of one beneficiary at the expense of the others. If you believe there was undue influence or fraud in the revision or creation of a will or a trust, you have the option of contesting that will or trust in court to obtain your inheritance.
When Can a Will or a Trust Be Contested?
Undue influence and lack of mental competence are the most common reasons why wills and trusts are contested. Listed here are the circumstances where challenging a will or a trust may be appropriate:
When you think that the person who established the will or trust was coerced or unduly pressured into creating it or making changes to it. Your attorney will seek to determine if the person was coerced or unduly influenced.
When you think the person who established the will or trust wasn’t mentally competent at the time the document was signed. Your lawyer will seek to determine if the person was cognizant of what he or she was doing or was suffering from a condition like dementia.
You may also challenge a will or a trust if someone who helped establish the will or trust may benefit from it or if there are questions about how the document was witnessed or signed. The law in California spells out requirements for the signing of wills and trusts.
Are Witnesses Required When Wills and Trusts Are Signed?
Wills in California usually need to be signed by two disinterested witnesses, except for “holographic” wills or unless there is “clear and convincing” evidence that the person who signed the document intended it as his or her last will and testament.
The signing of a trust document does not need to be witnessed in California. However, trusts and their amendments are typically notarized, although notarization is not legally required.
What Should You Know Before You Take Legal Action?
If you contest a trust by alleging lack of mental capacity, fraud, duress, or undue influence, but you have no probable cause for that claim, by challenging the trust, you may forfeit any right to benefits from the trust if it includes a no-contest provision.
However, if you were entirely cut out of the trust, the no-contest provision does not apply to you, and you may take legal action if you and your attorney can show probable cause.
It is important to read and understand the terms of the will or the trust that you are challenging and to discuss your case with a California will and trust attorney as early as possible if you are considering legal action.
What Is the Deadline for Contesting a Will?
Until a court admits it for probate, a will document is not “legally” a last will and testament. In California, you will have two opportunities to contest a will.
If you are notified of a petition for probate on the will, you can appear at the initial hearing with your attorney, and you may be able to prevent the will’s admission to probate. The court will then allow you to file a written objection stating your grounds for contesting the will’s validity.
Alternately, after the will is admitted for probate, you have 120 days to request the court to rescind its order admitting the will for probate. You and your attorney must submit a written objection stating your grounds for disputing the will.
What Is the Deadline for Contesting a Trust?
If you receive a Notice of Irrevocability or Notice of Trust Administration from the trustee, California law gives you 120 days from the day that notice is mailed to begin legal action to contest the trust.
If no copy of the trust document accompanies that notice, you should request a copy. If no copy is provided, you still have only 120 days. If a copy is provided to you within the 120 days, then you have an additional 60 days from the date the copy is mailed to you to initiate legal action.
How We Can Help
A California will and trust attorney at Tomassian, Pimentel & Shapazian can determine if you have legal grounds for challenging a will or a trust and can advise you regarding the best way to proceed with your challenge.
We represent clients in the Fresno area and across California in all matters related to wills, trusts, probate, and estate planning. Call Tomassian, Pimentel & Shapazian promptly at 559-201-0327 or contact us online to schedule a free initial consultation with a Fresno will and trust attorney.