Estate litigation is stressful for those involved and can be a huge drain on an estate. The best way to avoid litigation is by having a comprehensive and well-drafted estate plan. However, even that is not always enough. If you become involved in estate litigation, either as a proponent or challenger of the estate, our San Mateo lawyers at Fox, Shjeflo, Hartley & Babu LLP have the courtroom experience to represent your interests aggressively and effectively.
Challenging a will early in the probate process
Estate litigation often comes about when a person challenges the validity of a will during the probate process. A will can face challenges if it does not meet the execution requirements of the California Probate Code. This means that, in most cases, the deceased and two witnesses must sign the will or the deceased must have handwritten pertinent provisions. The person offering the will for probate must provide clear and convincing evidence that the will meets these requirements.
Similarly, the state of mind of the signer can be used to challenge even a properly executed will. Under the California Probate Code, a will is not valid if:
- It was signed by a person under duress or undue influence
- The will was created due to mistake or fraud
- The signer lacked the mental capacity to understand his or her actions
In these cases, the person challenging the will must present clear and convincing evidence that one of these conditions existed at the time the deceased signed the will.
This type of challenge can be very contentious and a trial may ultimately be necessary. Our experienced Bay Area estate litigation attorneys have the negotiation and litigation skills to decrease the burden that such a challenge puts upon the estate. We work to equitably resolve the dispute out of court. But if a fair resolution proves unworkable, a California estate litigation attorney with Fox, Shjeflo, Hartley & Babu LLP has the trial experience to effectively advocate for our clients in the courtroom.
Challenging a will later in the probate process
Other types of challenges can occur later in the probate process. A beneficiary may feel that the representative or executor of the estate is acting improperly or interpreting the will incorrectly. Our estate planning lawyers in San Francisco counsel executors to help them avoid and quickly resolve probate disputes. However, whether you are an executor or a beneficiary concerned about the actions of an executor, our attorneys can aggressively represent your interests through negotiations, mediation and, if necessary, trial.