A will is one of the most important legal instruments a person will ever make, and so it should go without saying that ensuring the will is thoroughly accurate can be critical to the beneficiaries’ ability to receive the property meant for them in a timely manner. If a testator who made a will later realizes his or her mistake, he or she can simply take the necessary steps to modify the will for accuracy, but what happens when the testator has already passed away and a mistake is only then discovered in the will?
The Three Categories of Mistakes in California Wills
Under California law, there are three main categories of mistakes that might be evidenced in a will:
- Mistake in the Execution: This is a mistake regarding the very nature of the document. For example, if a testator thought the document he was signing was a loan and not a will, or if he simply signed the wrong document, this is a mistake in the execution. Here, the entire will is declared invalid.
- Mistake in the Factum: Here, the will as a whole is the correct document, but there is a mistake with regard to specific language used. The testator might have listed “Bobby” as a beneficiary when he meant to list “Bonnie,” or he might have listed his savings account as a specific gift when he meant to list his checking account. In this case, outside evidence can be admitted to prove the actual intent of the testator.
- Mistake in the Inducement: In this case, both the document and the language are correct, but the testator was operating under some mistaken belief relating to property, beneficiaries, or some other fact. For example, the testator may have thought that he owed a debt to a certain beneficiary and was thus leaving property to that person on account of the debt, but he actually payed back the debt long ago. Courts will not set aside a gift based on this type of mistake.
If you suspect a mistake was made in a testator’s will affecting your interests, a probate attorney can work with you to represent your interests in obtaining a just outcome.
See What a Pasadena Probate Attorney Can Do For You
Christopher B. Johnson is an estate planning and probate attorney in Pasadena, CA who has helped thousands of individuals and families over the past 18 years in issues of estate planning and probate administration and disputes. Schedule a consultation with him today to discuss your estate planning or probate goals.