Estate FAQs: How Long Do I Have to Contest Wills and Trusts?

Wills and trusts are essential to preserving an estate and protecting beneficiaries and those the creator cares about most. However, sometimes there are issues within these documents, or that occur when drafting them, that warrant legal action. When contesting a will or trust, consulting with a premier estate litigation attorney is imperative. Here is how long you have to contest a will and trust:

How Long You Have to Contest Wills and Trusts in California

While wills and trusts are both instruments that function as essential estate planning tools, these documents are still different from each other. Only people with legal standing can contest the legitimacy of a will or trust. These parties usually include:

  • Beneficiaries named in the document
  • Beneficiaries named under a prior version of the document
  • The decedent’s heirs

Because they operate under different rules and laws, contesting them is often complicated and requires the counsel of a premier estate litigation lawyer. These instruments serve unique, individuating purposes, so there are different timelines to contest a will and trust

Understanding the differences is key to ensuring you can successfully dispute the document. While there are always exceptions, these timelines are usually not flexible to prevent delays in administration, so adhering to them is critical.

This makes contacting an attorney as soon as possible incredibly important. Here are general timelines for how long you have to contest wills and trusts in California:

Contesting a Will in California

You cannot contest a will until it is admitted into probate court. Once a will is filed with the probate court, the court will determine if it is legally valid and admit it into probate.

These documents are not wills until the courts have sanctioned them. In California, you have 120 days from the date the probate is opened to contest a will. During this process, you are asking the court to revoke its ruling that the will is valid.

To contest a will, you must file a formal, written objection to the document that details the legal basis for your contest. You can also appear and object at the initial hearing to admit a will into probate and legitimize it, which we advise if possible. 

Contesting a Trust in California

Contesting a trust in California is an entirely different situation. Still, like most situations involving wills and trusts, there are overlapping features. 

Similar to contesting a will, when contesting a trust, you have a deadline of 120 days from the date when the trustee mails the notice. This notice provides specific information required by law to provide to heirs and beneficiaries. Trusts do not pass through probate.

Trustees have approximately 60 days from when the creator dies to notify beneficiaries and heirs about the trust administration. Unlike a will, if you receive this notice but do not receive a copy of the trust, you have an extra 60 days to request and contest the document. 

Consider the nature of these documents: wills are public record, but trusts are not. Ultimately, this is at the heart of these different timelines.

Contact a Lawyer With Unrivaled Expertise in Contesting Wills and Trusts

Whether you want to contest a will or trust, it is crucial to consult with a premier estate litigation attorney and file as soon as possible. Contesting both of these documents requires abiding by a strict timeline. Failing to file a claim within the narrow window provided results in an inability to contest these documents entirely.

Luckily, at Gokal Law Group, our preeminent estate litigation lawyers boast unparalleled expertise and an unwavering commitment to clients. Contact us now for a consultation.

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