People in California who are writing a will might wonder who would be able to challenge it. Only certain people are permitted to do so. For example, a cousin, neighbor or friend who is not named in the will usually cannot do so even if they have reasons to believe that the will might be invalid.

Requirements for contesting a will

The first requirement for contesting a will is that a person must have what is known as “standing.” In general, these people tend to be either heirs or immediate family members whether or not they are named as beneficiaries. People who were named as beneficiaries in a previous will but not named in the current one might be able to contest the current one.

In addition, parents, spouses, children, siblings and grandparents may be able to challenge a will. Known as heirs, these are typically the people who would stand to inherit under state law if the person died intestate, or without a will. While minors generally cannot contest a will, they may be able to do so through a court representative or executor.

Working to avoid will contests

A person who is concerned about potential family conflict can take steps to prevent a will contest. A “no contest” clause may state that a person who challenges the will and loses the challenge can be disinherited altogether. However, this might not be enforceable.

A better way to ensure that an estate plan is not challenged may be to work with an attorney to prepare it. An attorney may help prepare documents, including wills and trusts, with clear and accurate legal language to avoid errors and ambiguity. Using vehicles like trusts to pass assets might also reduce the likelihood of legal challenges since unlike wills, these are private and assets pass directly to beneficiaries instead of going through probate. Talking to family members about the estate plan may also reduce the likelihood of conflict.