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Litigating a will: families sometimes disagree

Individuals are encouraged to write a will so their wishes are clearly presented to those they leave behind. It keeps the state government out of the process of deciding things, preserves a family legacy and can sometimes keep people from inheriting what they aren't supposed to have. There are certain legal requirements that must be included, but otherwise, it's a very personal document of intentions.

At our law firm, we pride ourselves on working to understand each client's personal story. We do explain on our practice page, however, that sometimes issues surface among heirs who don't accept the dictates of a will. Probate is the process through which a will is validated in the legal system. Probate litigation refers to the means by which disputes regarding the terms of the will are resolved.

Some of the reasons for litigation include alleged undue influence exerted upon the testator, one of the most common reasons to question a will, and mental incapacity of him or her. California law is clear that an individual has the capacity to make a will if he or she understands the extent and nature of the possessions to be included, intended to dispose of them in the will, and know the recipients.

Of course, fraud charges or if a mistake is alleged, litigation may also be required. A will that isn't properly signed, witnessed and notarized can be questionable. Improper revocation of a previous will or multiple versions may precipitate a court's assistance in sorting out the testator's intent.

A properly drawn will, perhaps in conjunction with an appropriate trust or other estate planning tool, is a wise choice no matter how complex your estate might be.

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