Take charge of your estate plan by creating a will. We are here to help. We will review your situation with you and listen carefully to your goals for your estate plan.
A last will and testament is a legally binding document that outlines what you would like to happen to your estate and assets after you pass away. While many Californians choose to use a Revocable Living Trust as well as a will in their estate plan, a simple will may be appropriate for small estates under the Probate threshold.
As the testator (will creator), you will be able to clarify who will become the legal guardian of your minor children and who you would like to receive an inheritance from your estate after you have passed away. California imposes specific requirements that your will must meet to be considered legally valid and enforceable.
If you would like to take charge of your estate plan by creating a will, the Law Offices of Daniel A. Hunt is here to help you. We will review your situation with you and listen carefully to your goals for your estate plan. We will help you create a legally valid will in California that protects your assets and goals. Contact the knowledgeable and experienced Sacramento probate lawyers at the Law Offices of Daniel A. Hunt today to schedule your initial consultation.
WRITING YOUR LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT
When you decide to write a last will and testament, you are in control of how the court will distribute your property after you pass away. Creating a will makes the probate process much easier for your surviving family members. Providing clear instructions as to who will receive your property will help your surviving loved ones greatly. At the Law Offices of Daniel A. Hunt, we will help you ensure that your will is clear and addresses all of your property and assets.
REQUIREMENTS FOR A VALID WILL IN CALIFORNIA
Writing down how you want your assets to be distributed after you die is not enough to create a legally binding last will and testament in California. Instead, you will need to meet certain legal criteria to be enforceable in the state of California. California Probate Code sets forth the basic requirements for a legally valid will as follows:
- Age: The testator must be at least 18 years old at the time you write your will.
- Capacity: The testator must have the capacity to create a will, which means the testator must be of sound mind. Being of sound mind means that the testator can understand the purpose and nature of the testamentary act of creating a will. Additionally, the testator cannot have a mental disorder that causes hallucinations or delusions.
- Format: In California, wills must be in written form. California does not recognize any type of oral will. However, California does recognize holographic wills as legally valid as long as they are handwritten and signed. In some cases, California courts will recognize a holographic will even when it does not have signatory witnesses or notarization.
- Signature: The testator must sign the will. However, if the testator is physically or mentally incapacitated, another person can sign the will and the testator’s name. In these circumstances, the testator must still be physically present and direct the other individual to sign on his or her behalf.
- Witnesses: In California, a will must be signed by at least two people who are present when the testator signs the well. When one of the witnesses is a beneficiary who will inherit property under the terms of the will, there must be a third witness present. Your lawyer should not serve as one of your witnesses, so it is wise to bring two different adult witnesses to sign the will. The witnesses must also be of sound mind and physically present when you sign your will.
- Beneficiaries: The testator has a wide range of discretion regarding who will receive their property under the terms of the will. A testator can distribute property to an individual, business, society, lodge, country, state, city, municipal corporation, and other government entities in California.
THE ADVANTAGES OF WRITING A WILL
Without a will or trust-based estate plan in place, you will lose control over who receives your property after you pass away. Many advantages come with creating a legally valid will in California, such as:
- Choosing beneficiaries and attaching conditions to the distribution of your property
- Designating an executor
- Designating a guardian for your minor children
- The ability to make revoke or amend your will if you choose
WILL CONTESTS IN CALIFORNIA
Difficult family situations can arise when surviving family members disagree about a deceased loved one’s will. In some cases, family members are surprised that they have not been included as a beneficiary of the deceased loved one’s property. In other cases, family members doubt that the testator had a sound mind when creating a will. We have also represented surviving family members who contend that a third-party exercised undue influence over their loved one to obtain property or money from them.
When legal issues arise related to a will, this is called a will contest. A party can challenge a will’s legitimacy in a California probate court. The probate judge can hold a will contest trial. During the trial, the person or people challenging the will have a burden to produce evidence that the will is invalid under California’s probate laws. The probate court will not distribute the decedent’s property until the judge has decided in a will contest. If you are involved in a will contest, it is important that you consult with a probate lawyer as soon as possible who will help you protect your rights and interest.
CONTACT A CALIFORNIA WILL LAWYER TODAY
Creating a will is one of the most important actions you can take to ensure that the people or organizations you choose will receive your assets after you are gone. Unfortunately, many Americans do not have a will in place. When people pass away without a will or trust in place, the state of California will distribute their property according to California’s intestate laws. Contact the Law Offices of Daniel A. Hunt today to begin the process of creating or updating your will by scheduling an initial consultation with our Sacramento, Folsom, or Roseville offices. We offer in-person, virtual, and telephone appointments for your convenience.