How Do I Ensure That My Will is Valid in California?
In Irvine, California, a Last Will and Testament -- a "Will" -- is a written California Estate Planning document that serves several functions. These include:
- Directing how a person's property, money, and other assets are distributed post-death
- Identifying such property, money, and assets (including the location of such assets, identification numbers, user codes, passwords, etc.)
- Identifying the person or persons tasked with "winding up" the decedent's affairs after death
- Stating preferences for funeral arrangements
- Establishing trusts and other financial planning instruments for the benefit of survivors
- Avoiding probate proceedings and the attendant costs
- Legally minimizing Estate and other types of taxes
Because of the enormous legal consequences of a Will, under California law, there are certain basic requirements that must be met for a Will to be valid and enforceable in California courts. If you need help with a California Will, call the Estate Planning attorneys at the Guardian Litigation Group. Our number is (800) 316-3133 and we are located in Irvine, CA. Here are the requirements for a valid Will in California.
The first requirement is that the Will be in writing. This means that oral Wills are not enforceable. Likewise, a Will done with your phone camera will not be valid. Generally, a Will is drafted by competent California Estate Planning attorneys, prepared through a word processing program, and printed.
The second requirement is that the Will be signed and dated by the person making the Will. Legally, that person is called the "testator." The best practice is to have the testator also initial each page of the Will (but this is not a legal requirement for validity).
Third, at least two witnesses must be present at the time the testator signs and dates the Will. The witnesses do not need to read the Will and typically do not read the Will. However, the witnesses must understand that the testator is signing a Will. They must also watch the testator actually sign the Will. Thus, for example, the witnessing is not valid if the witnesses are in another room when the testator signs the Will. In addition, the best practice is to have both witnesses be "disinterested" which means that the witnesses are not named in the Will as beneficiaries.
Fourth, the witnesses must themselves sign the Will (generally with their contact information included on the Will). The witness signatures are generally on the same page as the testator's signature. Witnesses do not need to know the testator personally. Thus, if you have a California estate planning attorney draft your Will and go into the attorney's office for signing, the witnesses might be employees of the Law Firm.
Fifth, the testator must be "of sound mind" at the time that they sign the Will, and the witnesses must sign that they acknowledge that the testator was "of sound mind" at the time. Being "of sound mind" is not overly complex. It just means that the testator must be conscious, must be aware of their surroundings, aware of who they are, and aware that they are signing a Will. A few simple questions are usually sufficient to establish mental capacity such as what is your name, where do you live, what month/year is it, where are we now, what are those papers in front of you, etc.
Contact Our Experienced Irvine, CA Estate Planning Attorneys
For more information, contact the Irvine, California Estate Planning attorneys at Guardian Litigation Group. Our Mission is to provide unparalleled Estate Planning legal services for our clients. We can be reached via our contact page or by phone at (800) 316-3133. We are located in Irvine, California.