A will can play a central role in developing an estate plan that meets the unique needs and circumstances of a person. It may be best known for setting out who will inherit what property upon a person’s death. A will can also, however, name a guardian for a minor child as well as name the personal representative of the estate. Both of these features can be, of course, extremely important. The guardian will be responsible for the care of a minor child. The personal representative will be tasked with overseeing the probate of the estate, which includes making sure creditors are paid off and that property is properly disbursed to the right beneficiaries. In order to help ensure that the wishes expressed in your will are honored, you should take care to help ensure that your will is legally sound.
Requirements for Establishing a Valid Will in California
When a person dies without a will, or a will that is not legally valid, this is referred to as dying “intestate.” Instead of the terms of a will dictating how property will be distributed, a person’s assets will be distributed according to state intestacy laws. Generally speaking, state intestacy laws distribute property to closest relatives of the deceased and, should closer relatives not exist, the property will go to increasingly more distant relatives. Should a person pass away without any surviving relatives, his or her property will pass, or “escheat,” to the state.
In order to establish a valid will in California, the testator, the person making the will, must be at least 18 years of age and be of sound mind. A sound mind means that a person has the ability to make decisions and to reason as well as understanding the consequences of how he or she is deciding to distribute property through the will.
The will must be signed by the testator. In the alternative, the will may be signed by someone else who is in the testator’s presence and signs the will at the direction of the testator. A conservator pursuant to a court order may also be permitted to sign the will. It is also important to note that California does not recognize oral wills as valid. In order to be valid, a will must be in writing. It does not matter if the will is handwritten or typed.
Additionally, the will must be properly witnessed. California requires that at least two people, present at the same time, sign the will. The two witnesses must either witness the testator’s signing of the will or witness the testator acknowledging his or her signature. The witnesses must also acknowledge that they know they are signing the testator’s will. There is no requirement in California that a will be notarized.
Estate Planning Attorneys
When you take the time and effort to establish a will that contains important direction as to how your affairs should be handled after you pass, you want it to be legally viable. OC Wills & Trusts is committed to developing a will that meets your needs and is legally valid. Contact us today.