What Makes a Will Legal in California?

By A.L. Kennedy

California state laws contain specific rules for what makes a will legal in the state. California's will laws are laid out in the California Probate Code. Like most states, California requires a will to be signed by the testator, or person who made the will, as well as by two witnesses.

Eligibility

The California Probate Code states that anyone can make a legal will in California if they are at least 18 years old and "of sound mind," which means being able to understand that they are making a will and that the will leaves their property to certain people or charities when they die.

Property

California is a community property state, which means that spouses each have an equal share of ownership in any property acquired during their marriage. A legal will in California may give away any property that belongs solely to the person making the will. It may not, however, give away any property that belongs to both spouses equally. If the will includes a provision trying to give away community property, the probate court will ignore that provision.

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Signatures and Witnesses

A will must be signed by the testator; if the testator cannot sign, she may designate someone to sign for her while she witnesses the signature, according to the California Probate Code. The testator's signature must also be witnessed by two witnesses who are at least 18 years old and of sound mind. The witnesses also sign the will and indicate that they witnessed the testator signing it and knew it was the testator's will. A will does not have to be notarized to be legal in California.

Will Revocation

Once a California will is signed and witnessed, it can be revoked in one of three ways. First, the testator can revoke the will by making a new will that states it revokes all previous wills. Second, the testator or someone acting on the testator's orders can completely destroy the will, such as by burning or shredding. Finally, if a testator is married when he makes the will but then becomes divorced, any part of the will leaving property to his former spouse is considered revoked unless the will specifies that that part should stand despite the divorce, according to the California Probate Code.

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California Laws Regarding Wills

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California Law on Wills

By establishing a will, you can avoid administration of your estate under California intestate succession laws. However, merely writing a will is not sufficient for the state to recognize your wishes -- your will must comply with the guidelines defined by the California Probate Code for the state to acknowledge its validity. While a will that overlooks only one requirement may still uphold in court, you risk the court putting aside your entire will if you fail to comply with these guidelines.

Do I Need an Attorney to Make a Legal Will?

In most states, a legal or valid will must contain certain basic information, such as the testator's or will-maker's name, the date the will was made, the testator's signature and the signatures of two witnesses in some cases. An attorney's help is not required to make a valid will. Nevertheless, it is wise to consider consulting an attorney when you make your will, especially if you have minor children, considerable investments or other assets, or family strife that may affect how your property is distributed after you die.

Is Amending Your Will Yourself Legal in Iowa?

A will or testament is a legal document that disposes of property upon a person's death and designates a guardian for the decedent's minor children, if any. When a person creates a will in Iowa, he must follow the state's prescribed legal procedures for drafting a will so it is valid and will be implemented upon death. The same legal procedures must also be strictly followed to amend a will.

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