A Strong Offense
A Stronger Defense
The world of people who can challenge a will has its limits. A person challenging a will must have some recognizable “interest” in the will, and while the definition and scope of that “interest” may vary by jurisdiction, a property right that would be affected by a will contest is often sufficient. In other words, if setting aside the subsequent will would put money in your pocket, then you likely have standing to challenge that will. But what about someone with no pecuniary interest in the estate, like a replaced executor? In Estate of Sobol, a California appellate court recently construed the scope of that “interest” under California law.
Here, the court dealt with a scenario in which Sonia Sobol executed a will that named Jay Rose as her executor. Sonia later executed a codicil to the will revoking her designation of Mr. Rose as executor and appointing three different people as co-executors of the will. There were no other changes made to the will other than the naming of different executors. Mr. Rose objected to the codicil on a number of grounds and the probate court ruled that Mr. Rose lacked standing to object.
The appellate court agreed on the grounds that where a subsequent will makes no changes in the dispositive provisions of the former will and changes only the executor, the replaced executor lacks standing to challenge the will. The court specifically noted that the lack of an executor’s fee as a result of a subsequent will does not sufficiently qualify as a pecuniary interest in the estate.
This situation stands in contrast to one where the dispositive provisions of the former will do change with the subsequent will. Under that scenario, the replaced executor may be able to challenge the will on the grounds that he represents those who would be entitled to the estate under the will in which he is named as executor.