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Legal Remedies for Being Left Out of a Will

Legal Remedies for Being Left Out of a Will

Sometimes the contents of a will are unexpected and may exclude people who were assumed to be included. Although being left out of a will is not a situation you imagined yourself in, it is important to consider your position, take steps to clarify why you were not included, and explore the legal remedies for contesting the will if necessary.

Contesting a Will in California


As a child or spouse of the deceased, you have certain rights when it comes to the inheritance of property or assets of your family member. An author of a will, called a testator, may attempt to disinherit you for a variety of reasons by omitting you from a will. Some common reasons for being left out of a will or trust include:

  • Testator has neglected to update their estate plan
  • Testator and heir had unresolved conflict
  • Testator has provided for their child or spouse by other means

It is important to discuss the specifics of your case with an experienced estate planning attorney to determine if you have been wrongfully disinherited and possibly seek recourse. As the spouse or child of a deceased family member you may be entitled to up to half of the deceased family member’s estate, unless the will left specific language to disinherit you.

One way to challenge your disinheritance is to contest whether the will is valid. For a will to be valid in California it must be in writing, signed, and witnessed by two or more individuals. If the will is declared invalid, the estate is distributed to the decedent’s heirs as required under California law.

Another option that may be explored is whether the deceased was under undue influence, or lacked the mental capacity to make a will. Undue influence in will writing occurs when a person is compelled to draft their will to comply with the wishes of another. In either case, it may be argued that the will does not reflect the wishes of the decedent, and if proven, may be declared invalid.

Finally, there may be loopholes in the language used to disinherit you that may be challenged. For example, a child may challenge language that asserts they have been adequately provided for by other means.

Reach Out to a Knowledgeable California Estate Planning Attorney

If you believe you have been wrongfully disinherited, you should consult an experienced trusts and estates planning attorney. Daniel Leahy is prepared to treat your unique situation with the sensitivity and attention to detail it deserves. Mr. Leahy is an experienced Northern California attorney who handles matters of trust and estate law. Serving Alameda County and the surrounding area, the Law Offices of Daniel Leahy in Oakland is prepared to handle your legal questions after a loved one has passed. Call (510) 985-4151 or contact us online to set up a free consultation.



Contesting Wills in California

Contesting Wills in California

When a loved one has recently passed, it is important to the surviving family members that the final wishes of the decedent be respected, especially with regard to their money, property, and other assets. If a family member or other party feels that is not the case, they have the option to contest the will.

To contest a will means to change or eliminate some of the document’s provisions and, in extreme cases, void the will entirely. While most wills proceed through the probate process – that is, the legal process of authorizing a will as valid – some were created or signed under invalid circumstances.

Anyone who stands to gain something from a will can contest the document in court.

Can I contest a will in California?

As with many legal actions, contesting a will is very time-sensitive. You may contest a will as soon as someone dies; however, if another person has already filed to have the will probated, you must contest the will before the probate hearing. If you cannot do that, the statute of limitations is 120 days after that hearing date to file your contest.

When you do file, the burden of proof rests on the contestor. This means that, if you are the party alleging that the will is invalid in some way, you must provide more evidence supporting your point of view. For example, if you are alleging that the will’s author was not mentally capable of authorizing a legal document, you would need to provide eyewitness testimony or medical records to support that claim.

Grounds for contesting a will

While each state has its own unique set of laws regarding wills, there are four major instances that are considered grounds for contesting a will in California:

  1. The will is not in compliance with relevant state laws.
  2. The will’s author did not have the capacity to sign their will (for example, if they were afflicted with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease at the time of signing).
  3. The author was coerced into signing a will against their wishes.
  4. The deceased was tricked into signing.

Consult a skilled trusts and estates lawyer in California

Whether you are a trustee, beneficiary, executor, or administrator, Daniel Leahy is prepared to treat your unique situation with the sensitivity and attention to detail it deserves. Mr. Leahy is an experienced Northern California estate planning attorney who serves Contra Costa County and the surrounding area.

At the Law Offices of Daniel Leahy in Oakland, we are prepared to handle your legal questions after a loved one has passed. Contact us online or call (510) 985-4151 to set up a consultation.