Contested Wills in Santa Ana, California
In Santa Ana, California, there is a process through which a person can challenge the validity of a will. This is known as a "contested will" or "will contest."
There are numerous reasons why a person might want to contest a will made by a close family member. Sometimes, people will decide to leave money or property to charity, or to other entities who are not closely related. If their family members weren't expecting this, they might assume that something went wrong with the drafting of the will.
If a lot of money, or some specifically valuable property, is at stake, the person who was left out might want to go to court and allege that the will was invalid. When left out of a will, a family member might naturally assume that some kind of mistake has been made, whether this is actually true or not.
Like any legal matter, however, this should not be taken lightly. Will contests can foster conflict and strife within families who are already mourning a loved one. This can cause grave and irreversible damage to family relationships.
When Can a Will be Contested in Santa Ana, California?
Courts in Santa Ana, California will not let a person contest a will unless they have an excellent reason. There are, nonetheless, some allegations which will always invalidate a will, if they are proven.
One big reason to invalidate a will is the fact that the will was made under duress. "Duress" simply means forcing somebody to do something they don't want to, using some kind of threat. Usually, the threat involves some type of physical harm. The most obvious example would involve putting a gun to somebody's head and telling them to write a will containing the terms desired by the gunman. Such a will, assuming the underlying facts can be proven in court, will never be valid. Of course, the validity of a will rarely becomes an issue until the testator has died, which may be years after the will was drafted. This means that proving the circumstances under which the will was made can often be very difficult. However, there are certain facts, such as the devise being to an "unnatural" beneficiary (somebody the testator didn't know very well, for instance), and the beneficiary being in a position of power over the decedent, are enough to at least create a suspicion that something is wrong.
Another fact that might invalidate a will is the mental incompetence of the testator. Wills must be a product of a person's volition. A will cannot be truly voluntary unless the testator knows what they're doing. Therefore, if the testator is mentally incompetent at the time he or she makes the will, the will cannot take effect. You should be aware, however, that this test applies at the time the will is made. So, if the testator is not mentally competent at the time of death, but was when the will was made, the will is valid.
If a Santa Ana, California will is successfully challenged and thus invalidated, there has to be some system for orderly distribution of the decedent's property. Usually, if a will is held invalid, all of the property will be treated as if the decedent had never written or will. This means that it goes to the decedent's closest living relative, or, if there are not relatives who can be located, the state.
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Can a Santa Ana, California Contested Will Attorney Help?
Because a will contest can sometimes involve difficult legal and factual questions, as well as some very raw emotions, a skilled Santa Ana, California attorney can be invaluable in helping this process go as smoothly as possible.
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Life in Santa Ana
Santa Ana is the county seat of the infamous Orange County, California. Santa Ana is the 4th most densely populated area in the United States with over 325,000 residents. Santa Ana is known nationally for it's beautiful coastline and it lends its name to the Santa Ana Freeway that bisects the city as well as the winds that historically fuel wildfires in Southern California, the Santa Ana Winds. One of the reasons people flock to Santa Ana is for work with Orange County at the Santa Ana Civic Center. Santa Ana has a high number of skilled lawyers because it's the location of the Orange County Supreme Court and the Ronald Reagan Federal Building and Courthouse.
Santa Ana's close proximity to Los Angeles attracts many corporate headquarters. Behr Paint, Corinthian Colleges, First American Corporation, and The Orange County Register all have their corporate headquarters in Santa Ana. Ingram Micro is the world's largest information technology distributor and outdoes all of the others as the top employer in Santa Ana besides Orange County. For those folks commuting out of the city by way of public transit, Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner runs through Los Angeles to San Diego. Santa Ana also has service from the Metrolink Orange County Line to Oceanside and the Inland Empire Line running to San Juan Capistrano and San Bernardino.