The validity of a will is a popular point of contention during difficult probate battles. While most people in California likely do not anticipate their will being challenged, it can happen when a family member feels spurned or when someone might have a legitimate reason to be suspicious. However, simply because a will's validity can be challenged does not mean that the probate process related to it will be a breeze.
An out-of-state battle over a will lasted for about seven years before a judge recently rendered a verdict on the matter. Two siblings -- a sister and brother -- butted heads when their father's will was submitted in 2009. The sister believed that her brother had wrongly influenced their father as he struggled with dementia in his remaining years.
Due to stipulations in the will, the brother was apparently able to take out loans through a tobacco company that his father had owned and run. These loans were used to pay the brother's mortgage on both his main home as well as his vacation house and to shell out tuition for his children to attend private school. The brother denied the claim that he had fraudulently influenced his father's will, and he believed that his sister simply had a self-inflated idea of how much she should receive from her father's estate. He pointed to the fact that he and his father operated the tobacco company together, and his sister apparently had no active involvement. The final ruling by the probate judge resulted in an order for the brother to repay approximately $2 million to his father's estate.
When it comes to a loved one's estate, discovering that possible fraudulent behavior wrongly influenced its terms can be devastating. However, since many people in California tend to fear the probate process, objections are not always raised. While it can take time and dedication to petition the validity of a will, sometimes it is the only course of action to ensure one receives his or her rightful inheritance.
Source: Enfield, CT. Patch, "Former Enfield State Rep Loses Probate Battle With Sister", Tim Jensen, Feb. 4, 2016