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What Are the Requirements for a Will to Be Valid in California?

What Are the Requirements for a Will to Be Valid in California?

Estate planning is a crucial step in your family plan. Establishing your wishes for your finances and property enables your legacy to proceed according to your intentions. The law surrounding estate planning is complex and should be entrusted to a California wills lawyer. An attorney can help you navigate the legal landscape. In doing so, you can avoid unexpected legal actions and financial consequences in the future for your family.

Wills Are One Part of a Four-Point Plan

Wills and trusts spell out your intentions for your finances and property after you pass. These documents clarify your plans, determine distributions, and take estate taxes into account. Durable powers of attorney ensure that a person you trust will represent you if you are incapacitated, thus avoiding probate and conservatorship. Advanced health directives state the care you authorize if you become incapacitated and you are unable to make these choices yourself.

What Happens if There Is No Estate Will?

When no will exists for an individual, the case goes to probate court. In probate courts, all assets are named, cataloged, and valued. This can be a lengthy and expensive process. Then, the court will decide which assets are gifted to certain individuals. Half of the community, or marital property, is given to the surviving spouse and half to the children.

If there is neither a spouse nor children, the assets will be distributed among other family members according to the succession order of kin. If no further survivors are identified, then the state claims the property.

A Will Must Be in Writing

An oral will does not stand up in court. The will must be written or typed. The testator, or the person making the will, does not have to write it himself. However, the testator does need to sign and date the will. If questions arise about the authenticity of the will, a probate court may reject it. You will want to seek the assistance of a California wills lawyer to make this official and less likely to be challenged by the court.

Signed and Dated Wills

When signing, the testator must be at least 18 years old and of sound mind. The testator must be able to understand what they are doing, or the will may be contested. The testator must understand that they are outlining the division of their property. They must understand the value of their property and their relationship to the heirs. The will must be signed by two witnesses present at the same time as the testator. They must also sign an affidavit that states the testator is of sound mind.

Designated Beneficiaries

A will must state beneficiaries to whom property and finances are given. Beneficiaries may be individuals or organizations. The will must clearly declare which assets must be given to each beneficiary. Here, precise language is crucial. When assets are not prescribed to certain individuals, assets are divided according to the succession law of next of kin. The spouse and children are considered first. In the absence of these individuals, the property is assigned to the next of kin.


Clearly stated intentions are crucial for the effectiveness of a will. A California wills lawyer can assist you with the precise language to include in your will. Precision is vital when creating a will that will hold up in a probate court. Any vagueness in the designation of beneficiaries and property could result in lengthy probate proceedings.

Changing a Will

Existing wills may be changed with an amendment. The amendment must also meet the requirements of a valid will. Typically, amendments are used for minor changes only. Similarly, an entirely new will can be created. In both of these instances, a lawyer can assist you in drafting a document that will hold up under scrutiny.


Q: What Are the Requirements for a Will to Be Valid in California?

A: The will must be written or typed, signed and dated by the testator, signed by two witnesses, and it must clearly state beneficiaries. Oral wills are not considered valid. Precise language must be used to assign assets to their designated beneficiaries. Failure to clearly allocate resources will result in the case remaining in probate court.

Q: Do All Wills Have to Be Filed in California?

A: All wills must be filed in the California probate clerk’s office within 30 days of a person’s death. Failure to do so will result in the freezing of that person’s assets until debts are paid. The executor of the will may be held legally liable for all associated costs. Failure to file in California results in the case being held in probate court, which can be a lengthy, expensive process.

Q: What Are the Three Basic Requirements of a Valid Will?

A: There are three basic requirements for a will to be valid. The will must be written or typed. The will must be signed and dated by the testator. Two witnesses to the will must sign also. Further considerations are the clear, precise language used to assign beneficiaries to specific assets. Any vague language can result in the case remaining in probate court.

Q: What Happens if You Don’t File a Will in California?

A: The case will go to the probate court to determine disbursement. This can be a lengthy process. If you do not file a will in California, the surviving spouse will usually inherit 50% of the marital property. The remainder of the property will be distributed according to the succession law of next of kin.

Determining the allocation of your assets is a considerable proposition. In order to make the process efficient, you will want to proceed with clarity and precision. Partnering with a California wills lawyer can structure this process and give you the satisfaction you desire.

As you contemplate your legacy, make the choice to partner with a skilled attorney who can guide you through the complex legal process. To schedule your will consultation, contact Robert G. Petrovich, Attorney at Law.

Call Today For More Information

Call 626-792-5955 (*must dial 1 plus 626 area code) or contact us online
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Based in San Marino (near Pasadena), Mr. Petrovich handles estate planning, probate, business law, real estate, and other legal matters throughout the San Gabriel Valley.