Taking the time to create a last will and testament is critical for every California adult. This document conveys your wishes and provides guidance for property distribution in the event of your death.
However, your will could wind up being at the center of a legal dispute if it is invalid.
Reasons a will is invalid in California
State laws dictate the elements of a legally valid will. Per these laws, your will could be invalid or unenforceable in this state if:
- It is not in writing
- You were younger than 18 when you drafted it
- You did not sign it (or have someone sign it on your behalf at your direction)
- There were not at least two witnesses to the signing
- Someone forced or tricked you into signing
If a beneficiary or another interested party has reason to suspect your will does not fit these criteria, they could contest the will during probate.
Courts can set aside an invalid will, meaning it would be like you never had one in the first place. If this happens, courts will distribute property per state laws. And these decisions may not align with your wishes. People with whom you do have a good relationship could benefit from your passing; people and causes close to your heart could receive nothing.
Making sure your will passes in probate
If you want to avoid the consequences of an invalid will, make sure you avoid common missteps. Talk to an attorney when you create your will; refrain from including any problematic or confusing clauses; update your will periodically to ensure it remains valid.
While you may not be the person to handle the fallout of a contested will, it is crucial to take steps to prevent this situation if you have people you care about and love.