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Key factors in dueling will decisions

Estate plans and wills are intended to provide clarity about the wishes of a deceased individual. However, if a loved one leaves more than one will, this may lead to a will dispute.

In such instances, the court must make the final determination. There are a few key factors to know and understand in regard to dueling will decisions.


The courts will take time to examine both wills and seek key verbiage to ensure that the will abides by California will laws and see if it indicates which will the testator meant to enact. For instance, in the case that the testator clearly denotes in the second will the revocation of all previous wills, then the first will becomes invalid and the second will stands.

Time frame

In most cases, the courts do have a time frame in which parties may submit a new will or evidence in regard to a will. In most states, this time frame is four years. So, in the case that an individual finds and submits a new, updated will within four years after the probate of the first will, a judge may deem the second will as valid.


When other markers are not present, the courts may refer to specific content information to make a decision. For example, if two wills are similar and include a few minor changes, the courts typically deem the newer version to be valid. However, if there are significant changes without a clear indication of which will the testator wanted in place, most courts divert to the will that leaves the most assets to immediate family.

These are a few of the main factors that the courts consider in their decision. The process can become complex, so a person may want to take some time to review the law and consider consulting with a knowledgeable professional.

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