Orange County California Law in Signing a Will
There is no debate that having a will is an essential part of your life plan. In fact, your last will and testament is one of the most important legal documents you can create during your lifetime. Due to the complexities in Orange County, California laws, your best bet is to meet with an estate planning attorney, even if you prefer to do most of the legwork yourself. After spending all of the time creating wills and trusts with your lawyer, you want to make sure that your final wishes are legal and followed.
Here is what you need to know about signing a will in California.
Why do I need a will?
A will helps protect your family and your property after you pass on. It allows you to leave your property to other people and name a person who is entrusted with following the terms of your will. This document also sets up personal guardians for your children if they are under 18 when you pass. Your will also names someone to take care of your estate until your children are old enough, if you’re leaving everything to them.
Without a legal will, California state laws will dictate how your property and assets are distributed. Typically, state laws will give your property to your closest living relatives, starting with your spouse and children, followed by grandchildren, parents, and a long list with siblings, cousins, and other distant relatives.
When there is no will, there is a higher chance of legal battles and additional costs that can diminish the value of your estate. There is also a high chance that the fight to take over your property could create rifts within your family. And without a will, there is no guarantee that any of your wishes will be followed.
Read More: Estate Planning When You Are Elderly or Ill
Can I change a will?
With luck, you’ll live many years beyond the first penning of your will. A lot can change over the years, so you must keep your will updated. Your estate may go through changes, and your old will may no longer apply. You may also decide to add or delete people from your will as relationships evolve.
You can make a change to your will at any point. In most cases, changing a will is an easy task, such as changing the executor of your estate. In other cases, a will might need clarification or other modifications. You must speak to a wills and trust lawyer in Orange County when making any significant changes to ensure that the document remains valid and that new sections do not contradict previous ones.
In many cases, changing a will is best accomplished by formally revoking the previous will and creating a new one. If, for example, you get divorced, you may have various changes. In that case, it’s not worth the risk of making a mistake by editing your existing will. Regardless of whether you decide to make a simple change or redo your will from scratch, you need to follow the same formalities you use to make the original document.
What requirements will make my California will legal?
The laws regarding a valid will are listed in California Probate Code: Division 6 Wills and Intestate Succession. Here are the main takeaways that you need to know.
- The person authoring the will must be at least 18 years old and be of sound mind. In general, someone of sound mind is someone who has not been deemed incompetent in a legal preceding. Someone under the influence of mind-altering drugs or alcohol or suffering from a mental disorder is often not considered of sound mind.
- The will must be in writing. That means there is no such thing as a verbal will. Even if you tell all of your loved ones your wishes, there is no guarantee that those wishes will be followed. The will does not need to be notarized but should be signed in the presence of two witnesses. These witnesses must also be legal adults of sound mind. It is often best if all witnesses are disinterested parties. That means they have nothing to gain from the will. The witnesses must see the author sign the will and in the presence of the other witness.
So long as the will’s authenticity is not challenged, it should go through probate rather quickly. If there are challenges, the legal battle can turn ugly as a court tries to figure out the truth. This process can take a great deal of time and money. Sorting out disputes in your will can also be traumatic for the people involved. That’s why you want to make sure that your will is completed correctly.
Can I just write my will on my own?
You might find any number of fill-in-the-blank templates online. While this might seem like a quick and cost-effective strategy, it may not work the way you planned. Due to a variety of ever-changing laws, you can’t always be sure that the template you’re using is up-to-date. You may also end up with a model meant for a different state and is not valid in California.
If some cases, a single mistake can invalidate large portions of your will. When this happens, it can mean your wishes are not followed.
For example, you could be separated from your spouse and you want your estate to go to your brother because you have no children. However, you don’t have an official divorce on file in your will. This error could mean that the will goes contested by your ex-spouse, and a legal battle between them and your brother could ensue. If the court makes the decision, there’s a chance they might still grant your estate to your ex-spouse.
Help when you need it
To ensure that there aren’t any complications after your death, make sure to work with an experienced wills and trusts attorney in Orange County. Not only will your lawyer make sure that your will meets the state’s requirements, but they can represent you in court if there are legal issues later on. When it comes to your estate, you don’t want to take a chance.