Daily Law Group
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Do you know your rights if your parent disinherits you?

When your parents have significant means, it is common to expect to receive at least a portion of those assets when your parent dies. Typically, people who create estate plans do so to provide the best possible future for their children and loved ones. Unfortunately, sometimes the last will or estate plan of a person you love and trust doesn't seem to reflect the nature of your relationship.

Perhaps your parent remarried very late in life and left most of their assets to a spouse. Maybe they went so far as to completely disinherit you. If the last will or estate plan is different from what you remember or seems unfairly skewed, the result can be feelings of anger or even betrayal.

You may find yourself wondering what rights you have under California law when your parent leaves you out of a will or favors a new spouse or another sibling over you. The answer is relatively complex, based on your family circumstances and the circumstances under which your loved one created or revised their last will.

Do you suspect undue influence from another family member?

If your parent chose to revise their last will or estate plan to omit you, your only real option is likely to contest the will as written. You will need to go to the probate court and provide reason for your challenge. If you simply bring a challenge because you are unhappy with the contents of the estate plan, the courts are unlikely to rule in your favor.

However, if you have reason to suspect that your loved one was under undue influence from a spouse, child or caretaker, that may provide grounds for a challenge. Undue influence involves someone placing pressure on your loved one to alter their legal plans in a way that will benefit that other person.

Issues with mental health can impact the validity of a will

You can also contest a last will when you believe that your parent had diminished capacity at the time that they changed their will. Diminished capacity is a legal term referring to the cognitive decline that people with different medical conditions experience. Some people also experience cognitive decline as a normal part of the aging process.

If the courts agree that there is evidence of undue influence or diminished capacity, they can either throw out the estate plan as written and create a new plan based on state law or earlier versions of the document. The courts may also defer to a previous existing version of the last will or estate plan instead of the most recent one. In either of these situations, the result may be closer to what you had come to expect from earlier discussions with your loved one.

If you recently discovered that someone you loved has written you out of their wealth or rewritten their estate plan to favor someone else, you may have a legal right to challenge the will. Reviewing your family situation and the document itself with an experienced California estate attorney is the best first step to determining what options you have.

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