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What constitutes duress for a last will and testament?

On Behalf of | Feb 19, 2023 | PROBATE & ESTATE ADMINISTRATION - Estate Administration

In California and throughout the country, adults of sound mind have every right to make an estate plan. The estate owner can also make changes to an existing plan. Numerous issues could render an estate plan invalid, particularly a last will and testament. 

If someone believes that an estate owner signed a last will and testament under duress, the will may be challenged. Duress is an ambiguous term, however. There are several ways to interpret it. For the court to rule that a will is invalid, a judge must be convinced that the incidents that occurred fit the legal definition of ”duress.” 

Duress is physical threats or psychological pressure 

The basic legal definition of duress is forcing someone, through the threat of physical harm or by psychological pressure, to do something. This might mean coercing or forcing someone to commit a crime. It can also mean pressuring someone into signing a contract or a will, as well as adding or deleting certain things from a will.  

If a California probate judge is convinced that a testator was under duress when he or she signed a last will and testament, the will may be declared invalid. Anyone in need of guidance and support regarding probate issues, such as duress or an inheritance dispute, may want to discuss the matter with an attorney experienced in the law of probate. An attorney can review a specific case and determine whether sufficient grounds exist to submit a challenge in court.