A basic concept under the law says that a will represents a decedent’s wishes for their property upon their passing. At the same time, the law presumes that a properly signed and executed will is genuine. However, situations often arise when family members or courts question the authenticity of a will.
If any interested party suspects a will is fraudulent, they can file an objection with the court. If a court finds evidence of fraud, it has the authority to invalidate a will and change the terms of a decedent’s estate.
A hardworking attorney could help to answer your questions concerning fraud in Orange County wills. Additionally, a tenacious wills lawyer could help investigate whether a specific document is fraudulent and take appropriate legal action to remedy it.
What Makes a Will Fraudulent?
In the simplest sense, a fraudulent will is any document that does not accurately reflect the testator’s wishes. Often, fraud occurs when someone alters the terms of an existing will or forges a testator’s signature on a false will.
However, it is also possible to commit fraud in other ways. One way to do this is to withhold a known valid will. By state law, the most recent will that a person signs is the only document with legal power. Altering this timeline is a clear example of fraud.
For example, if Mr. A stands to inherit Mr. B’s entire estate under a will signed in 2015, but Mr. B signs a new will in 2020 that names Mr. C as his beneficiary, the most recent document carries sole legal power. If Mr. A has the only copy of this will and does not submit it to the court, it is fraud. A skilled attorney in Orange County could provide more examples of fraudulent wills and help investigate whether an illegal act has occurred.
Possible Legal Actions When a Party Suspects Fraud
If someone suspects will fraud, they can openly contest the document in court. If a court invalidates a will, it may leave a party intestate, meaning that the law will determine which parties inherit a decedent’s estate according to the order of succession listed in California Probate Code § 6401 & 6402. In some cases, a court will declare that a previously created will is valid.
To dispute a will, a party must file a contest to the will. CA Prob. Code § 8252 says that the parties challenging the authenticity of a will bear the burden of proving fraud. Of course, this challenge must include evidence of the supposed fraud. A lawyer in Orange County could help gather evidence of deceptive wills or defend a document’s authenticity.
An Attorney in Orange County Could Help Address Questions Concerning Fraud in Wills
The concept of probate centers around the idea that a person’s will or other testamentary document is genuine. Unfortunately, unscrupulous parties sometimes attempt to alter, damage, or otherwise change the verbiage of a will. Likewise, greedy parties may also try to introduce an entirely new document that appears to be genuine.
An attorney could help if you suspect that fraud in Orange County wills has impacted a person’s estate planning document. A legal team member can question the authenticity of a will or investigate the impact that potential fraud may have on an estate. Contact a lawyer today to learn more.