Challenging a will: Who can participate in the process?

On Behalf of | Nov 5, 2020 | Estate Planning |

Although wills can be an effective way to protect estates in California, sometimes a will can still be challenged in court. It should be noted that not just anyone can challenge a person’s will, rather, only those who will be affected by the document would have the legal right to take this step. Still, defining who has the legal right, or “standing”, to challenge a will can be confusing to a person who has never dealt with this issue before. The following includes a list of people who may be able to participate in challenging a will, which is known as a “will contest”.


A person who was extremely close to the decedent by blood or legal relationship is usually called an heir-at-law. This individual would have received a bulk of their estate even if there wasn’t any estate planning before the person passed away. One of the most common includes direct descendants, such as children. If there is a child who has been left out of the will, then they have the right to challenge the will in court. Of course, just because they challenge a will doesn’t mean they’ll win; they still would have to provide valid legal justifications as to why they should be included.

Past beneficiaries and fiduciaries

If a person was initially added into the will but later removed for some reason or another, they would have the right to challenge the decedent’s last will and testament. In this case, the same stipulation would be added, which is that they would have to prove why the current will is invalid. If they are able to invalidate the current will, the previous will (assuming it is valid), would be reinstituted as the final will and testament.

Who isn’t able to challenge a will?

Knowing who can’t challenge a will is just as important as those who can. A person who has no right to challenge a will is someone who has never been added into the will nor is considered an heir-at-law of the deceased. Even if they believe the will to be invalid in some manner, they would still not have the legal right to challenge it.

Challenging a will can be a complex case to take on, so it may be helpful to utilize the expertise of an experienced attorney. Doing so may increase the chances of having your name placed back into the will.

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