Attorneys Located in Vallejo and Fairfield Representing Clients in Trust Contests and Will Contests
Why contest a will or trust?
A Last Will and Testament and often one or more trusts are important documents in most estate plans. But when, as a survivor or beneficiary, you believe that your loved one’s true wishes are not reflected in his or her trust and/or will, you can dispute the validity of one or both documents by contesting them in legal proceedings. To support you and guide you through the complicated process of trust contests and will contests, you’ll need help from an experienced lawyer. At the law firm of Favaro, Lavezzo, Gill, Caretti & Heppell, PC, we advise clients throughout all phases of both will contests and trust contests.
Establishing standing and grounds
Before you can contest a will, trust or other estate document, you must confirm your legal standing. Only those who meet one of the following criteria may contest a trust or will:
- He or she is named as an heir or beneficiary in the will or trust
- He or she would inherit physical or monetary property from the estate if the will or trust is ruled invalid
- He or she is a “devisee,” someone designated to receive real property in the will or trust
If you have legal standing, you must identify the grounds on which you believe that the trust or will is invalid. In Fairfield and Vallejo and throughout California, the following grounds are accepted in a will contest or trust contest:
- Lack of mental capacity — You believe that the deceased was not of sound mind to understand what the will or trust meant.
- Fraud, duress or undue influence — You believe that the deceased was coerced or manipulated into signing the will or trust under false pretenses.
- Fails to meet formalities — The will or trust was not signed, no witnesses were present at its signing, is superseded by a newer will or trust, was revoked or is otherwise unenforceable.
Filing your claim
Assuming you have standing and legitimate grounds on which you are contesting a will or trust, your next step is to prepare your objection to be filed in probate court. Your attorney can help make sure your petition meets proper probate code, and determine whether the will contains a “no contest” clause (as many do) in which case an unsuccessful will or trust contest could preclude you from collecting any inheritance at all.
If you still wish to contest, you and your lawyer will provide an official petition giving a detailed account of the reasons you believe the will or trust should be invalidated. You must also arrange for any other trustees or beneficiaries to be served the same petition. You’ll be assigned a hearing with a probate judge — if you are contesting a will you cannot avoid probate — during which you and your attorney must present your case, present the evidence you have gathered (such as other notarized estate documents) and ultimately accept the probate judge’s decision.
Make sure your loved one’s wishes are honored
If you have reason to believe a will or trust with which you are involved is fraudulent or otherwise invalid, you have the right to contest the legitimacy of that document. Lawyers from Favaro, Lavezzo, Gill, Caretti & Heppell, PC stand ready to help you take action today. Call us at 707-552-3630 or contact us online to learn more.
Our law firm maintains three office locations — in Vallejo, Fairfield and St. Helena, California — allowing us to represent clients throughout Solano County, Contra Costa County and Napa County. Our attorneys keep regular hours, but we are always glad to schedule off-hour appointments at our clients’ convenience. To best accommodate our diverse client base, members of our staff speak Spanish, Tagalog and Ilocano.