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David H. Schwartz Jan. 4, 2022

In the aftermath of a loved one’s death, grieving family members have to cope with the loss and determine whether the will, the document where the decedent outlined final wishes, is valid. Disputes can arise when beneficiaries or heirs think their loved one’s will is forged or otherwise invalid.

Those who think the will is forged or not properly executed can challenge the validity of the document in California. If you need legal assistance with contesting a will or defending the will’s validity against claims, you must speak with an experienced probate attorney.

At the Law Offices of David H. Schwartz, INC, the dedicated and knowledgeable probate attorney understands the complex nature of estate litigation and handles a full range of will contests and estate disputes in San Francisco, California. The Law Offices of David H. Schwartz, INC proudly serves clients in the San Francisco Bay Area, including Oakland, San Jose, San Mateo, Santa Clara, and Alameda County, California. 

What Can I Do If I Suspect a Will Is Forged?

California law allows interested parties to contest a will or trust when they have grounds to do so and believe that the deceased person’s legal document is forged or otherwise not valid. Interested parties can bring a will contest as soon as the decedent passes away.

Most wills go through the probate process in California. According to the California Judicial Branch, probate is the process of administering the deceased person’s will, determining if the will is valid, identifying the decedent’s heirs and beneficiaries, and distributing property to the beneficiaries.

Those who want to challenge a will if they suspect the document is forged have a limited amount of time to contest the will. Under California law, interested parties have only 120 days to contest a will. The clock starts ticking the day the probate is open.

Reasons a Will is Contested in California

There are four reasons the validity of a will is challenged in California:

  1. The testator (the person who created the will) lacked testamentary capacity when executing the document;

  2. The testator was subjected to undue influence when writing the will;

  3. The statutory requirements were not followed when executing and signing the will (e.g., there were not two witnesses present when the testator signed the document); and

  4. The testator was fraudulently coerced or induced into writing the document.

Each of these grounds for a will contest is difficult to prove, not to mention that challenging a will can be a costly process. Consider speaking with a probate attorney in San Francisco, California, to determine if you have grounds to contest the will in your specific case.

Who Can Challenge a Will’s Validity?

California law allows only interested persons to challenge the validity of a deceased person’s will. Interested parties are those who possess a financial interest in the decedent’s estate, including heirs, beneficiaries, creditors, spouses, children, devisees, and others.

If you are considering contesting a will, make sure that you have grounds to challenge the validity of the document. You cannot contest a will simply because you are not satisfied with the property distribution or the will’s contents.

What Happens If the Will Is Determined to Be Forged?

If a will contest is successful and the probate court determines that the document is forged, the court can do one of these two things:

  1. Distribute the deceased person’s property according to California intestate laws. Intestate succession laws control who inherits what if the decedent died without a will or their will was deemed invalid.

  2. Distribute the property according to the terms of the decedent’s prior existing will. If the deceased person has a legitimate will before writing a new will (that was thrown out by the probate court), the court uses the prior existing will to distribute the property.

What happens to the decedent’s estate when their will is determined to be invalid depends on the circumstances of the case, along with the reasons the document was thrown out.

Working with an Experienced Probate Attorney in San Francisco, California

If you think that a loved one’s will is forged or invalid, you must consult with a knowledgeable probate attorney to determine if you have grounds to dispute the validity. Regardless of whether you need help with challenging a will or defending against a will contest, the Law Offices of David H. Schwartz, INC can help with your legal matter. Mr. Schwartz serves clients throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, including Oakland, San Jose, San Mateo, Santa Clara, and Alameda County, California.