Estate Litigation Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Few situations are as complicated and confusing as an estate dispute. When a loved one has died and there are disagreements on how the estate should be administered, it can cause turmoil during one of the most difficult times in your family's lives.

At Pedder, Hesseltine, Walker & Toth, LLP, we know you have questions — and we have answers. While everyone deserves a one-on-one consultation for answers to their unique questions, below are answers to some of the common questions we hear about will contests and estate disputes. To learn more, call our Lafayette office at 925-297-6179 or toll free at 888-355-4093 to schedule an appointment with one of our lawyers.

Who may challenge a will in California?

Not anybody can file a will contest in California. Just because your cousin did not leave you any assets does not mean you can challenge their estate. State law only allows for "interested parties" to make a claim — these often are limited to the decedent's direct heirs (children, spouses, etc.) and any beneficiary listed in the will, as well as creditors and third parties who may have a valid legal claim to the decedent's assets.

What are the grounds to contest an estate in California?

In addition to being an interested party, you also need to have specific legal grounds to contest an estate. These often include circumstances such as:

  • Your loved one was not in the right mental state when they drafted their estate plan
  • They were under undue influence, often coerced by a family member or someone named in the will
  • They made oral promises that they never formalized in writing
  • Mistakes were made in the estate plan
  • Documents were forged by another party

To see if you are eligible to contest an estate of your loved one, don't hesitate to reach out to our offices to speak with one of our attorneys.

How long do I have to contest a will in California?

You may be running out of time to contest an estate, so you should always act quickly as soon as you believe there is a problem. You may start your case as soon as a loved one dies, though once the initial probate petition is finalized you only have 120 days to challenge the estate.

What if I can't afford an estate litigation attorney?

Our law firm understands your financial concerns, and always takes cost into consideration for our clients. In addition to offering cost-effective representation, we also take some estate contest cases on a contingency fee — meaning you don't pay us a dime in attorney's fees unless we win your case. Don't hesitate to reach out to our office to see if you are eligible.