Usually, you want nothing more than to uphold the last wishes of a loved one who recently died. Their will or estate plan will is the foundation for their lasting legacy.
What they want to leave to their loved ones is a reflection not only of their relationships but also of their successes in life. Unfortunately, you may discover that the terms of a family member’s last will seem suspicious.
They may favor one person over everyone else or have penalized multiple people in ways the testator never previously disclosed. You may begin to suspect that fraud may have played a role. Other times, you may wonder if the will itself is invalid. What are common reasons that the courts invalidate estate documents?
Changes made very late in life
One of the most common warning signs that a will does not truly reflect the wishes of your loved one is a dramatic change to the will in the last years of their life. A person with significant medical conditions like Alzheimer’s disease or dementia simply may not have the testamentary capacity to create legally-binding documents like a will. Even someone sound of mind could still face intense pressure from a caregiver to make changes to their will.
Terms that violate state law
Few reasons will motivate a judge to throw out a will faster than a document that overtly violates California probate laws. Perhaps the testator tried to disinherit their spouse, a move which could lead to the courts throwing out the will and treating the estate as though someone died without any testamentary documents. Illegal terms in a will may invalidate a single clause or the entire document.
A lack of witnesses or notarization
If someone shows up to the funeral home with a digital will that no one else has ever seen and that is not notarized, their goal may be to defraud the beneficiaries of the estate. Typically, the California probate courts expect a testator to sign the will with two witnesses present who are ideally not beneficiaries. If the document does not meet those standards, may not hold up to scrutiny in probate court.
Understanding when a will may be invalid in California can help you protect your inheritance.