To successfully challenge someone’s will or estate plan, you need legal grounds to do so. Some people focus on outside influence that unduly impacted the estate plan, while others try to prove that a testator lacked the necessary cognitive capacity when signing the documents. Others will try to prove that the will itself is invalid because it doesn’t meet state standards.
There are several rules that apply to wills drafted in California. Typically, the will should be at least partially handwritten and signed by the testator. The person creating the will should be over 18 years of age and of sound mind at the time that they draft or update their documents. The state also imposes a requirement for two competent adult witnesses to be present when someone signs the will.
If you suspect undue influence or fraud compromised your loved one’s wishes and reduced how trustworthy their testamentary documents are, you may hope to bring a challenge against the will in probate court. Will witness signatures prevent you from bringing a challenge?
Witnesses could play a role in your claim
The witnesses for the will can be a good place to start building your claim. Identifying and locating the witnesses who were present for the signing of the will could actually help you with your challenge.
For example, you may learn that the witnesses were only present for the signing of the original document and that someone duplicated their signatures when finalizing an updated version of the will. On the other hand, the witness may have some questions about the mental state of the testator at the time that they signed the documents.
Typically, you only need to have one of the two witnesses present validate the will. That means that if neither witness is still alive or able to validate the will, the lack of witnesses could actually help your case.
Contesting a will requires evidence
To successfully challenge a will, you need proof that there was something wrong when the testator drafted the document or something improper with the document itself. The witnesses present at the time someone signed the document could either help you build your case when you challenge the will or could serve as a powerful refutation of your claims.
Looking into the circumstances at the time of a will signing can help you determine if your situation meets the necessary standard to initiate probate litigation.