Creating a will is a good step for any adult with people or property they want to protect. And during these uncertain times, it can be especially valuable to have this guide in place should you suddenly get sick or pass away.

However, a will is only effective if it is valid and enforceable.

Elements of a valid will

There are requirements that you must meet when creating your will for it to be valid in California. Your will should be:

  • In writing
  • Signed
  • Signed in front of at least two witnesses

You must also be at least 18 years old and be mentally capable of understanding important decisions to create a legally enforceable will.

To prevent potential disputes during the probate process, be sure your will is correct and free of any illegal clauses. Regularly updating your will can ensure it remains an accurate representation of your wishes. Finally, having multiple versions of a will can make it difficult to know which one is correct, so it can be prudent to have one version that you keep in a safe place.

When a will is not valid

The courts can set aside a will they deem invalid. They may do this if it does not meet the legal requirements or if someone contests the will, citing undue influence, fraud or lack of testamentary capacity.

If the courts deem a will invalid during probate, they may refer to any previous wills a person may have had. If that is not an option, the courts will distribute the property as if there was no will. Under these circumstances, there are laws that dictate the order of succession.

In other words, if your will is not valid, the courts will decide how to distribute your property.

Because your property and your wishes could be at stake, it can be crucial to take the time to ensure your will – and any other estate planning documents you might have – is created and updated appropriately. Not only can these efforts safeguard your plans, but they can also save your loved ones from a complicated probate process.