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How Long Do I Have to Contest a Will or Trust in California?

The timeframe to contest a will or trust in California is different for a will than it is for a trust.  It will depend upon whether the document you want to contest is a will or trust.

Contesting Wills

An action to contest a will cannot occur until the will is offered to be admitted to the Court by someone.  Once someone files the will with the Court, the Court can determine whether it is a will or not.  In California, it is not a will until the Court determines the writing to be a will.  The probate process proves up the will and allows the court to administer the will pursuant to the will's terms.  Because of this, there is nothing to contest until the will is offered to the Court and a petition to probate the will is filed.  If someone files a petition to probate the will, you need to file your will before the Court determines it is a valid will.  If you receive a petition for probate to have the will admitted, it is preferable to attend the hearing and object to the admission of the will.  

If someone files a petition stating the person died without a will, you will need to file your will as soon as possible.  

In California, a person has 120 days from the date the probate is opened, you can request the Court reconsider its ruling the will is proper and request the Court revoke is ruling the will is proper.  To do this, you must file a formal, written objection to the will which states the legal grounds why the will is not valid.

Contesting Trusts

A trust is an entirely different animal.  The deadline to contest a trust is 120 days from the date the notice under Probate Code 16061.7 is mailed.  This notice provides specific, required information to be provided to the heirs at law and beneficiaries of the trust.  If a copy of the trust is not provided and the beneficiary requests a copy of the trust, there is an additional 60 days to contest the trust.  It is preferable, however, to contest the trust within the 120 day period.

If a beneficiary receives the notice but does not contest the trust within the 120 day deadline, the beneficiary is forever barred from contesting the trust.  If the trustee never provides the notice to the beneficiary, the timeline to contest the trust never begins to run.  If you do not receive the notice and never contest the trust, the Court can decide you waited too long and not allow you to contest the trust.

To be on the safe side, it is preferable to file an action to contest the will or trust as soon as possible.  If you wait too long, you could lose your right to contest the will or trust.


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