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Does the probate court follow the exact terms of a will?

On Behalf of | Dec 28, 2022 | Estate Planning

When a loved one passes away, their beneficiaries attend probate court to witness the validation of the deceased’s will and oversee the distribution of the estate. Probate can be a lengthy or even burdensome affair, creating the perception that the process is something to avoid at all costs.

Some might even wonder if the California probate process can alter the terms of a will or if the court will faithfully uphold the intentions of the deceased. By learning more about how probate works, you can understand why the process is necessary and what extraordinary circumstances might lead to the court altering a will.

Can the terms of a will change during probate?

It is the goal of the probate court and the deceased’s named executor to carry out the will as closely as possible. Most wills go through the probate process smoothly and without contest, without any need arising to alter the document or omit any sections.

When might probate affect the terms of a will?

When someone contests the will and proves that some or all of the document is invalid, the probate court may decide to nullify some or all of the will. Only those named as a beneficiary in the will, or who can prove that they should be beneficiaries, may raise a challenge against the will. The burden is then placed upon that person to provide evidence of fraud or a lack of testamentary capacity at the time of the will’s writing.

The probate court exists to verify the legitimacy of a will, but it is rare for situations to arise which necessitate altering or nullifying a will. In most cases, the will passes through the probate process unimpeded.