JDA badge
The Great Seal of the State of California
State Bar of California

Understanding Inheritance Disputes: Know Your Rights and Options

Law Office of Jonathan D. Alexander, Esq.

Inheritance disputes can be a source of significant stress and confusion during an already difficult time. If you find yourself excluded from a will and are unsure of your options, you’re not alone. Let’s break down the basics of inheritance disputes and the possible courses of action.

Can You Contest a Will If You’re Excluded?

A common question is, “I thought I was going to inherit something under this will, and I didn’t. What can I do?” Generally speaking, in the United States, no one is guaranteed an inheritance from a family member, except in specific circumstances. This often surprises people, but the general rule is that if you’re not included in someone’s estate plan, there may not be much you can do.

Who Is Entitled to an Inheritance?

While the general rule is that you have no guaranteed right to an inheritance, there are important exceptions:

  1. Spouses: Nearly every state has laws preventing a person from disinheriting their spouse. If you are a surviving spouse who has been left out of a will, you usually have the right to contest it.
  2. Children: In limited cases, disinherited children might have a right to challenge a will. This is more common if a child was born after the will was created and was not included.
  3. Other Exceptions: There might be unique laws in other countries where the deceased owned property, which could affect inheritance rights.

Contesting a Will

If you believe you should have been included in a will, and the spouse exception or other limited ones do not apply, there are still ways to contest it. Key factors include:

  1. Lack of Capacity: If the person who created the will did not have the mental capacity to understand what they were doing, the will could be invalidated. For example, a person with late-stage Alzheimer’s might not have the necessary capacity to make a valid will.
  2. Undue Influence: If someone exerted undue influence over the deceased, causing them to make decisions against their free will, this could invalidate the will. This often involves situations where an individual isolates and manipulates the person making the will.
  3. Mistakes in the Will: Errors in how the will was drafted or executed can also be grounds for contesting it. For instance, if the will wasn’t signed correctly according to state laws, it might be invalid.
  4. Statute of Limitations: It’s crucial to act quickly. Each state has a statute of limitations, which means there is a limited time to contest a will after the person’s death.
  5. Standing to Sue: Only certain people have the right to contest a will. Typically, this includes family members or individuals named in a previous will. Being a close friend or confidant does not usually grant you the standing to file a lawsuit.

Final Considerations

Remember, litigation is complex. Even if you have a strong case, you must file within the appropriate time frame and have the legal standing to do so. This is why consulting with a knowledgeable attorney is crucial.

If you believe you have a case to contest a will, don’t navigate this challenging process alone. Contact me, Jonathan Alexander, your dedicated estate planning attorney, for assistance and guidance. I’m here to help you understand your rights and explore your options. Call my office today at (949) 334-7823 to schedule a consultation and take the first step toward resolving your inheritance dispute.

Client Reviews

The pandemic had me thinking very seriously about my outdated Will, I contacted the Law Office of Jonathan D. Alexander and he quickly eased my mind about all of the details of my estate and outdated will. He handled every detail from end to end and I was able to complete my Living Trust with no...

Joanne T.

I am so grateful to have been able to work with Jonathan. I knew I wanted to have a Living Trust and I had no idea what to expect going into the process. Jonathan was easy to talk to and explained the process thoroughly of what was required. He was patient with my multiple questions and replied in a...

Google reviewer

Get in Touch

  1. 1 Dedicated Representation
  2. 2 Virtual/Online Meetings
  3. 3 Protect What Matters Most
Fill out the contact form or call us at (949) 334-7823 to schedule your consultation.

Leave Us a Message