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

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The time limits for contesting a trust or will in California depend on several factors, including the nature of the document and the circumstances surrounding the dispute. Here are the general guidelines for how long you have to contest a trust or will in California:

Contesting a Will: For wills, California law generally provides a 120-day period during which interested parties can contest the will. This 120-day period starts from the date that formal notice is given to the potential beneficiaries or heirs regarding the admission of the will to probate. After the 120-day period has passed, it may be more challenging to contest the will, although there are certain exceptions that could allow a contest to proceed under limited circumstances.

Contesting a Trust: The time limits for contesting a trust in California can vary. It often depends on when the contesting party becomes aware of the trust's existence and any potential issues. Unlike wills, trusts may not always involve formal probate proceedings with a fixed 120-day window for contest. To contest a trust, you should initiate the process as soon as possible after becoming aware of circumstances that warrant a contest. Delaying your challenge can make it more difficult to succeed.

Even if the 120-day window has passed, it is possible to contest a trust or will in California, but it becomes more challenging. While the 120-day period provides a clear and relatively straightforward opportunity for interested parties to contest a will, there are circumstances in which a contest may still be allowed even after this period. Here are a few scenarios where you might be able to contest a trust or will after the 120-day period:

  • Lack of Notice: If you did not receive proper notice of the probate proceedings or the existence of the trust or will, you may have a valid reason to contest the document. In such cases, you may still be allowed to contest the trust or will even after the 120-day period if you can prove that you were not provided with the required notice.
  • Newly Discovered Evidence: If new evidence comes to light after the 120-day period, which was not reasonably discoverable before, and it supports your claim to contest the trust or will, you may be able to petition the court to consider this evidence.
  • Fraud or Forgery: If you have evidence of fraud or forgery that was not discovered within the 120-day window, you might have a basis for contesting the document. Proving fraud or forgery can extend the time frame for contesting.
  • Testamentary Capacity: If you can provide compelling evidence that the testator (for a will) or settlor (for a trust) lacked the testamentary capacity at the time of creating the document, the court may consider your challenge, even if it is outside the 120-day period.

Contesting a trust or will after the 120-day period can be complex, and the success of such a challenge depends on the specific circumstances and the strength of your case. It's crucial to consult with an experienced attorney who specializes in estate and trust law to determine the viability of your contest and guide you through the legal process. Additionally, it's important to be aware that there are still time limitations, so taking action promptly is advisable when you have a valid reason to contest a trust or will.

The legal professionals at OC Trial Group have extensive experience handling numerous disputes that can arise from issues related to wills and trusts. If you have worries about a dispute involving a will or trust, don’t hesitate to contact OC Trial Group for a complimentary consultation today. We’re here to provide assistance.

About the AuthorBlaine M. Brown

Blaine M. Brown is a co-founder of the OC Trial Group and acts as one of their primary trial attorneys. Mr. Brown is a highly awarded and reviewed trial attorney.