Does a will require witnesses in California?

On Behalf of | Jun 28, 2021 | Estate Planning, Wills & Trusts |

Writing a will seems like an easy task. Several legal document resources provide templates for would-be testators. While such resources may be convenient, they might not always provide clarity regarding California laws. A last will and testament remains subject to state law for validity, and those documents failing the witness requirements may be worthless.

California, wills, and witnesses

Under California law, a will must be signed in front of two witnesses. These two witnesses also sign the will, establishing that they truly witnessed the signing. If the testator signs the will one day and the two witnesses sign another day, that wouldn’t work. The testator signs and dates the will on the same day the witnesses perform the same actions.

If the will proves invalid due to no witnesses to the signing, then the probate court might turn to intestate laws to determine how the decedent’s estate will be distributed. The courts won’t likely rely on a will that is not legally valid.

Taking additional steps during estate planning

Careful estate planning may help a testator avoid disastrous problems. Some added steps could keep beneficiaries from experiencing an unnecessarily trying probate process.

Notarized wills are not mandatory in California, but they might be preferable. An attorney may assist with notarizing the will and providing the witnesses. Finding witnesses could become easier if working with an attorney. And there are other benefits.

Estate planning may involve other documents besides a will, such as a power of attorney and an advance health care directive. The time spent working on a will could serve as an opportunity to deal with other tasks.