5 Things to Consider While Creating a Will in California
The reason a last Will and Testament is important is because it clarifies who takes possession of assets owned by a person after their death. Without a will, unresolved confusion and tension may occur within a family.
Here are five important points to remember when creating a will in California:
1. How the State May Decide
When a person dies without a will in place, the state must determine how assets are allocated. Due to intestacy laws, beneficiaries are not allowed to dispute the court’s decision over distribution of possessions when the individual lacks a will. Even if the person made verbal statements about asset distribution in front of witnesses, only a valid will can legally determine specific distribution.
2. The Will Must Meet State Requirements
A will is only valid if it meets state legal requirements. In order to meet these requirements, the will must be typed or printed, signed by the “testator” or “testatrix” making the will, and signed by two witnesses who are physically present to witness the document’s execution by the maker—who must also be present during witness signatures. Valid execution and witnessing of a will are explained in the California Probate Code.
3. Will Witnesses Must Be Competent
The two witnesses to a will should be “disinterested” and not involved with the distribution of assets. In other words, at least two witnesses must not be beneficiaries. If it is only witnessed by a beneficiary, then it’s not valid.
4. Who May Make a Will
Any individual who is at least 18 years of age in California and is of sound mind is entitled to make a will, according to Section 6100. “Sound mind” usually refers to someone who hasn’t been determined in prior court proceedings to be incompetent.
5. Authenticity of a Will
When a will’s authenticity is unchallenged, the result is usually a simple procedure leading to probate. The court automatically accepts authenticity of a self-proven will and witnesses are not required to testify. Self-proven wills do require an affidavit signed by a witness that affirms authenticity and is attached to the will.
Good insight and knowledge of different federal and state laws can make a big difference when creating a will. Any oversight can lead to the will being contested, and could lead to an unanticipated and overlong probate process.