For updated COVID-19 precautions and FAQs, please click here for more information.

Modern Estate Planning Blog

Elder Law & Special Needs Planning

Wills and Trust Administration Basics in Sacramento County: What Does It Mean to Contest a Will?

February 18, 2012

When it comes to the administration of your will in El Dorado or Sacramento County, you likely assume that the hard work and planning you put in with your lawyer will ensure everything goes off without a hitch. The good news is that this is precisely what happens the majority of the time. Wills and trust administration is a big job, and the sole purpose of creating a will is to make your wishes as clear as possible to simplify the process.

When a will is “contested” that means that it is being challenged for some reason. Fortunately, heirs can’t simply overturn your will because they’re not happy with it. Instead, they have to show a legal reason that the will itself is invalid. If it is found to be invalid, then the administration process changes dramatically for all involved.

Who Can Contest a Will

As mentioned above, a will can’t just be contested because someone doesn’t think you left him or her enough or to create more drama at an already difficult time. Instead, it must be shown that there is a valid reason for contesting. Those who can contest a will during the administration process include:

  • Someone named in the will who feels he or should have inherited differently
  • Someone not named in the will who thinks he or she should have been

One way to determine if a person has standing to contest the will is to determine if he or she would have inherited if you had died without one and your estate had gone into probate.

Reasons to Contest a Will

Simply being unhappy with your share isn’t enough for a court to consider a request to contest a will. Instead, specific problems must be shown. For example:

  • The testator was unduly influenced
  • The testator did not have the mental capacity to make binding decisions
  • There was a mistake in the will
  • The will constitutes fraud or was created fraudulently

If any of these things are found to be true, then all or part of the will can be voided. If the entire will is considered invalid, then its administration is governed by California’s intestate laws. If only part of the will is questionable, then that portion of the estate can be added to the residuary estate and dispersed as the will otherwise states.

No Contest Clauses

Many estate planning clients work to improve the desired outcome of their wills by including “no contest” clauses. These typically state that anyone attempting to contest your will is simply disinherited. That may be enough of an incentive to stop someone from interfering with your wishes out of their own sense of greed or mischief. Working with a local Fair Oaks wills and trusts lawyer will ensure that you are following the applicable laws for our state.

Free Resources


I was absolutely without a clue as to how to begin or what I should do to establish an estate plan. I did know that I wanted someone I could trust, that was honest and I would have confidence in. I was referred to Heather by my friend who was being legally advised by Heather on another estate. She was very satisfied with her work and thought I might be happy with her service. At our consultation appointment, her presentation was very thorough. I had lots of questions, and she was easy to talk to and was able to guide me to just the kind of estate plan I needed. That was 10 years ago. Due to circumstances in my life, I have had to make changes to my plan, and I always go back to her for her legal services and guidance. I have recommended Heather before.

As Seen On