Courts almost always follow the letter of a dead person’s will. We call it “their will” for a reason, after all. Do you want judges to let people do things to you “against your will”?
Likewise, courts think carefully before rejecting what seems to be the dead person’s true intentions and clear desires. They must have an excellent reason to change direction.
If someone left you out of their will, there certainly might be something you can do about it. But first, do a little research, think deeply about what you want and your chances of getting it, and whether the numbers more than add up.
Contact the estate’s executor, soon
There are strict but changing time limits in California, so act clearly if you decide to contest the will.
Ask the executor for the current copy of the will, any earlier copies and the asset list. If the estate is already in probate, you will need to ask the probate court. Having and studying this information will help you think through your options and will be useful to an attorney if you decide to hire one.
Think about your evidence
If you discussed the will with the deceased, record what you remember and save any correspondence. The memories of the deceased’s family or financial advisor might be helpful.
Maybe you think someone coerced the deceased or manipulated them into leaving you out. You should have excellent and objectively verifiable evidence for this, since claiming this in court is a serious matter. Your opinion will not be enough.
Think about the cost and benefit of fighting
Feeling rejected, cheated and/or insulted can be difficult if not impossible to shake. But you may not find what you need to move on from the feeling in court or a bank account.
If you were not a “blood relative” and the deceased never wrote you into a legally binding estate plan before, chances are usually poor that hiring an attorney will be worth the investment.
Also, do the math. The dollar value of what you stand to make from the will should be many times what you expect to spend on a consultation with an attorney. Otherwise, you usually gain more learning from the experience than fighting for anything more tangible.