Will Disputes & Inheritance Disputes: Richard Ruman, Attorney.

Assistance in estate planning, will disputes, inheritance...

Areas of Expertise

It is essential to take action to protect yourself or your loved ones. In particular, elderly family members may need your assistance.

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Will Disputes & Inheritance Disputes

The saddest family disputes I've encountered in my practice are the ones centering around a last will and testament. It should be simple -- a will is prepared by a person detailing the distribution of property and assets after death. Just honor their wishes, right? Not always. The issues are as old as time and the law itself. Disputes range from people who believe they were short-changed by the will or by the will's executor to family members contesting a will against fraudsters and scam artists. The basic legal grounds for contesting a will include:


Undue Influence

One of the basic legal, and moral, foundations of a will is that it is made freely and represents the true intent of the maker. If pressure is brought to bear, especially on an infirm or elderly person, there may be grounds that the will is not valid. A red flag for undue influence is that a will primarily benefits a new acquaintance or caregiver instead of family or close, long-term friends.


Mental Incapacity

Since full mental awareness, along with free will, are cornerstones for the creation of a valid will, any indicators that the person making the will had diminished mental acuity could be grounds for contesting the will.


Failure to Meet Statutory Requirements.

This means that, basically the will was not signed and/or it was not prepared in a way that complied with California law (every state has its own laws). For example, a will might be invalid if it was signed, but had no witnesses.



The person contesting the will believes that the filed will had been previously withdrawn. In other words, an old version of the will is being presented as the final version.


Fraud or Mistake

Evidence that the will was based on an error or related to a fraud could be grounds for contesting a will. For example, if promises are made in exchange for a share in an estate and it is discovered that the promise was a lie or a mistake.


Contesting Wills and Inheritances

The best way to prevent disputes is though estate planning. The more complete and detailed the road map, the less likely those following it will become lost, or be tempted to become lost. Make sure important papers are current; in a safe place and that the executor can access them.

© 2008 Richard Ruman. All rights reserved.
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Richard Ruman Attorney at Law 9401 Wilshire Blvd. Suite 1250 Beverly Hills, CA 90212 (310) 273-7474
Practicing primarily in Beverly Hills, Santa Monica and Los Angeles. Site content copyright Richard Ruman.