Codicil Contest in California

After a will is signed, the creator of the will may wish to modify the will, add new beneficiaries, or delete certain provisions of the will. This is accomplished through a separate legal document known as a codicil to the will. However, sometimes changes are made to a will that raise questions about their validity or whether the creator of the will was competent at the time the changes were made. Challenging amendments to a will requires filing a lawsuit in California Probate Court known as a codicil contest.

You may wonder if you really need to hire a lawyer to contest a will or challenge a codicil to a will. It’s a question that we are frequently asked. Probate litigation is complicated. You should not handle a codicil contest on your own, just as you should not attempt to perform surgery on yourself. You will need to hire a qualified will litigation or codicil contest lawyer who has experience in this area of law if you want the codicil challenge handled properly.

The trial attorneys at Albertson & Davidson, LLP help individuals and families in California challenge improper amendments to wills. A codicil contest is a legal objection to the validity of an amendment to a will. Our codicil contest attorneys understand California Probate laws that contain specific requirements for making valid modifications to wills. We have extensive litigation experience in courtrooms throughout California.

If you suspect fraud, improper influence, or lack of mental capacity when changes were made to a will, let the California codicil litigation attorneys at Albertson & Davidson, LLP review the situation and discuss whether a codicil contest lawsuit is in order. Call (877) 227-5366 to reach an experienced California will contest lawyer.

What Does a Codicil Mean in Law?

A codicil is a written amendment to an existing last will and testament. A codicil may modify, explain, supplement or revoke provisions in an existing will.

Codicils may be used if the creator of a will wishes to make minor changes to the provisions of a will, such as if a beneficiary of the will has died.

California’s Requirements for Codicils

A codicil is a legal document. It must be executed with the same formal requirements as a will, as detailed in the California Probate Code. You cannot just draw a line through a provision of a will that is no longer valid. You have to create another signed legal document to amend the signed will.

The person executing the codicil must have the mental capacity to understand his or her own wishes and the changes he or she is making.

A codicil to a will must be signed and dated by the maker of the will in the presence of two disinterested witnesses who are not mentioned as beneficiaries in the will. The purpose of having disinterested witnesses is to provide some safeguard to make sure that a will or codicil to a will is signed without undue influence, duress, or at a time when the creator of the will lacks capacity.

The codicil must make reference to the sections of the existing will that are being modified and specify the date of the will.

The codicil should be kept with the original will in a secure location such as with other personal papers in a safe deposit box, a fireproof safe, or at the office of the lawyer who drew up the will.

Changes by Codicil

The types of changes to a will commonly made by codicil include:

  • Adding and providing for children who were born after the creation of a will
  • Revoking the appointment of the person named as the Executor or alternate Executor of your Will and appointing a new Executor or alternate
  • Changes to beneficiaries due to deaths, marriages or births
  • Revoking certain bequests contained in a will that you no longer wish to make
  • Adding additional bequests that you wish to make to the existing will
  • Changing the designation of the individual who is named as the beneficiary of the remainder of your estate and appoint a new Beneficiary

Important Considerations When Challenging a Codicil

If you have concerns about changes to a will, you should consult with a knowledgeable will contest attorney about whether a lawsuit is an appropriate step for you to take. If you are a beneficiary of the will or a beneficiary of a previous version of the will that was subsequently amended, you may have a right to file a codicil contest lawsuit.

Among the common grounds for contesting a will codicil are:

Lack of Capacity—If the person who created the will was not mentally competent when he or she signed the codicil, the changes contained in the codicil may be invalid. California law requires that a person signing a will or codicil to a will has the mental capacity to understand what he or she is signing. You may need to file a codicil contest lawsuit to have a court decide on the validity of the codicil.

Undue Influence—Some will contests and codicil challenges are based on the belief that the creator of the will was pressured unduly or manipulated to make changes to the will. An elderly individual may be susceptible to pressure, intimidation, or threats or lack a clear understanding of the changes being made by codicil. These are difficult cases, especially if the parents or elders are still living and the issue of their mental capacity must be litigated to show they are susceptible to undue influence by a wrongdoer because of their weakened mental state.

Our codicil contest attorneys at Albertson & Davidson can gather evidence to prove that a parent or elder lacked the capacity to sign a will codicil or was under undue pressure from someone else who hoped to gain from the changes made to the will. If a codicil contest is successful, the probate court may invalidate all or a portion of the codicil that is determined to be improperly executed.

Relation Between Codicil and Last Will and Testament

A last will and testament, also known simply as a will, details an individual’s wishes for the distribution of his or her assets and property.

A codicil is a separate legal document that makes amendments to a will.

Using a codicil allows you to supplement, change, or delete sections of a will while keeping the will intact. However, if the changes to the will are extensive, it may be more efficient and less confusing to execute a new last will and testament rather than a codicil.

If a codicil has previously been added to a will, it may be more efficient to execute a new will than a second codicil. Having multiple codicils to a will can be a source of confusion.

Contact a California Codicil Contest Attorney

California’s laws governing wills and estates are complex. The experience of the attorney representing you in a will contest lawsuit can make a difference in the outcome. Founding attorneys Stewart Albertson and Keith Davidson at Albertson & Davidson LLP are trial lawyers who focus on will and trust litigation. Albertson & Davidson has offices in San Francisco, San Diego, Carlsbad, Redwood City, Irvine, and Los Angeles. Our law firm’s core principles are embodied in the statement, “We stand, we fight, we win.” While we cannot guarantee a victory in every codicil contest lawsuit, our clients deserve our strongest efforts at a successful outcome.

We handle dozens of will contest cases at any given time. We take many codicil lawsuits on a contingency fee basis. That means that you can obtain experienced legal representation without having to pay any upfront costs. Many people would be unable to afford a qualified trial lawyer otherwise. Under a contingency fee arrangement, if we are successful in negotiating a settlement or obtaining a court award in a codicil contest case, we then receive a portion of the amount awarded as payment for our legal fee and expenses. Contact us at (877) 227-5366.