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California Last Will and Testament

California Last Will and Testament


Jennifer Mcgee


Updated on  

January 3, 2023

11 mins


Setting up your estate's distribution and management after you pass away may seem negative. Many people put it off as far as possible as they don't want to face a simple truth that everyone needs to handle their affairs. It's better to handle your estate's management as soon as possible rather than avoid it. With this simple task, you could save hundreds of hours worth of court and lawyer rounds for your family. Begin the work and create your California Last Will and Testament now.

What is a Last Will and Testament? 

Your last will and testament is a legal document that helps the court and your loved ones know about your wishes after you pass away. It can be about who would get your family home or which person would inherit a precious family heirloom. Several details and aspects to a Last Will and Testament can help make your and your family's life easier. Read more about why estate planning is essential to know more.

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“Should have done this before, had made it up to be really hard in my head. This was super easy!”

Requirements for a California Last Will and Testament 

Every state in the USA has varying requirements to make a valid and legal will. To avoid the will being challenged, you should follow the guidelines for your state. It would help make the probate process easier for your loved ones and ensure that the court follows your wishes. Let's look at the requirements for a California last will and testament:

  • Must be in written form: A written California last will is legal in court. You need to write the will or type it on the computer and print it. Either way, it must be present in a physical form. An oral will or a pdf on your laptop won't be legal in California. 
  • The testator should be 18 years or above.
  • Must be of sound mind and memory: The testator should understand the procedure and what a will is. They must have a sound mind and memory while making their will. If they're not of a sound mind, the will won't uphold in the court, and the estate would go through a lengthy probate process.
  • Terminology or documentation: You can also opt for a statutory last will in California for a more straightforward process. It's a simple template by the California state that you can fill in to create a simple will. However, you need to precisely use the same format without making any changes for it to be valid. You cannot change it to suit your specific will needs. The statutory will should follow the same requirements for signing and witnesses. 
  • Signed by the testator: The testator must sign the last will in the presence of the witnesses
  • Signed by two witnesses: A California last will and testament would be legal only if two witnesses sign it. They must sign it in the testator's presence, and the testator also needs to sign it in their presence. 

Who can be your witnesses for a California Last Will and Testament?

You need at least two witnesses for your California last will who follow these conditions:

  1. Any competent person can be a witness to a California Last Will. However, it's better to opt for adults to avoid challenges to their incompetence because of age.
  2. The witnesses should be disinterested, i.e., they must not be beneficiaries of the will. 
  3. If you have a beneficiary listed as a witness, it can lead to issues. The California probate law may see it as an undue influence on the testator, affecting the will's validity.

California rules for a personal representative or executor 

Your executor in the will is the person who would be responsible for managing your estate after you pass away or become incapacitated. You can name an executor in your California last will and testament if they fulfill these conditions:

  1. They must be 18 years or above of age.
  2. The executor should have a sound mind, allowing them to perform the duties.

In a California last will, you can use someone who lives out of state as your executor. Furthermore, the state allows you to choose someone even if they've previously been convicted of a felony. It's better to choose a trusted person for the process rather than leave it at the probate court's hands.

California Last Will and Testament notarization 

It's not necessary to notarize your California last will. You can simply follow the conditions for signing the will and witnesses to make it legal and self-proving in California. 

California Last Will and Testament

Last Will Revocation in California 

You can revoke your previous will anytime before you pass away in California by following any of these methods:

  • You can intentionally destroy the previous will by tearing, shredding, burning, or throwing it away.
  • You can ask someone to destroy it in your presence.
  • You can revoke the previous wills by creating a new one. Ensure that you state that this new will revokes all the last wills. Get rid of the previous wills and codicils to make it easier.

Last Will Amendment rules California.

You can revise your California last will and testament with a Codicil. It's a document that allows you to change your will rather than revoking it altogether. The Codicil should also follow the same conditions for signing by the testator and the two disinterested witnesses. The testator should be of sound mind while creating the Codicil. 

What happens if you don't have a will in California?

If you don't have a will, any of the applicable cases could happen in California:

Case What happens
Married without children, siblings, parents
Spouse inherits the entire estate
Married without children, and with parents Spouse gets the entire community property and one half of your personal estate Parents get the other half of your personal estate
Married with one child Spouse gets the entire community property and one half of your personal estate Your child gets the other half of your personal estate
Married with two or more children
Spouse inherits the entire community property and one-third of your personal estate
Your children inherit equal shares of your remaining two-thirds personal estate
Not married, no children, no immediate family Divided among extended family, including uncles, aunts, cousins, and grandparents
Not married and have children Your children (blood or adopted) will inherit in equal shares
No living family by blood or marriage The state of California inherits the estate

California Community Property rules.

California is a community property state. Here's what you should know about a community property state:

  • A community property state considers all the assets or debt acquired by any spouse during their marriage to belong to both spouses
  • It means that if you buy a house during your marriage, your spouse would own one-half of it even if you've bought it with your money and have your name on the title.
  • You can only name beneficiaries for your half of the estate. Even if you name someone else in your will, it will go to your spouse if it's their half of the estate. 

Here's what you can name in your will:

  1. Your personal property includes any assets or debts you had before your marriage 
  2. Any inheritance you acquired during your marriage.
  3. Any assets specified in a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement 
  4. Your half of the entire estate 

You can use your will to leave these assets to anyone you wish. 

Last Will and Testament California Free Template

You can quickly create a simple estate plan by downloading a Last Will and Testament California free template. It will be the best option if you don't have a large estate or complicated finances. You could check out the template and follow the necessary requirements to make your new California last will and testament. Once you go through the details and follow the required steps:

  1. Connect on TrulyWill and create your account.
  2. Discuss any issues or complications about your finances and personal relationships with our attorneys.
  3. Sign or notarize the document, depending on your state requirements. 

This template and sample last will and testament would allow you to examine what your will would look like. You can change the will template depending on your personal preferences for estate distribution. 

Some instances where it would be prudent to consult our experts before finalizing your will would be when you have a high net worth or complicated family and personal relationships. We also provide additional services for those unique requests:

  • Online expert support: You can connect with our experts online and clear your doubts.
  • Attorney support: For some specific and unique requirements, we also offer additional attorney support services for your will and trust.

If you're facing any of these issues, it's essential to consult an expert before proceeding. They could personally help you out with any doubts and create a solid and legally enforceable California last will and testament. 

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Frequently Asked Questions

Does my will dispose of all my assets?

A will would only dispose of the assets mentioned in it. You could decide which assets go to whom. However, it's always better to mention all your assets.

What does a personal representative/executor do?

The executor of your will would be responsible for managing and settling your estate distribution after you pass away. It's always better to name a trusted adult as your personal representative.

Do I need a lawyer to make my last will and testament?

There's generally no need to get a lawyer to make your will. You could use an online platform and easily make it within minutes. Only some special cases, like complex family relations, may require you to consult an attorney.

Can I write down my wishes and consider them a legal will?

Several states do not allow a self-written will unless you've followed the requirements. It would always be better to create a legal will by following all your state rules.

Should I update my will?

You should regularly check and update your last will after certain life events. It can be a new marriage, a child, or a divorce. Either way, keep updating your will after some time.
Jennifer Mcgee
Parent to five young children. Expert in Estate Planning, Probate, and Family Law Matters. Volunteer with Victim’s Advocates in the local sheriff's department...
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Jennifer Mcgree
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