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How to create and maintain a valid will in California

On Behalf of | Aug 15, 2022 | Estate Planning

Your will can provide instructions for how you want the courts to divide your assets. However, invalid wills can inhibit the probate process.

When you begin estate planning, make sure you create a legally valid will.

Valid wills

You must voluntarily write your will while you are a legal adult who is of sound mind. Digital wills are not valid, but a typed and printed will is fine. You should also sign it in the presence of two witnesses. Those witnesses will testify to the authenticity of your will after you die. If your witnesses sign a statement under penalty of perjury that you signed appropriately, they will not have to provide testimony.

Statutory wills

Statutory wills are fill-in-the-blank forms provided by the state. You cannot alter the template in any way, so you should only use a statutory will if you have a simple estate or need something in a hurry.

Holographic wills

Holographic wills are handwritten wills that you sign and date. You do not have to have your holographic will notarized or signed in the presence of witnesses. California still accepts these wills as valid, but it is more difficult to prove the authenticity of a handwritten will.

Changed or nullified wills

If you need to make changes to your will, you can do so with a codicil. A codicil acts as a modification to your original will. However, multiple codicils can add confusion and disrupt the probate process. It might be best to simply nullify your old will and write a new one. Make sure you destroy your original will or explicitly state in your new will that it will override the old will.

Creating and maintaining a legally valid will ensures that the courts distribute your estate according to your wishes.